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Highland MSP calls for ‘collective action’ to address Scotland’s housing emergency

By Rachel Smart

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A Highland MSP has said collective action is needed to address Scotland’s housing emergency.
A Highland MSP has said collective action is needed to address Scotland’s housing emergency.

A Highland MSP has called for collective action and shared responsibility to address Scotland’s escalating housing emergency.

Scottish Green MSP Ariane Burgess spoke after the Scottish government declared a housing emergency yesterday, which formally recognises the problems with the country’s housing system.

Speaking on the emergency she said circumstances have changed drastically, with 10 local authorities covering nearly half the population either at or close to crisis point and an estimated 10,000 children are stuck living in temporary accommodation with no safe, permanent home.

"Declaring a housing emergency must lead to collective action and shared responsibility to tackle this crisis using all the means at our disposal," Ms Burgess stated.

The Scottish Green MSP highlighted bold measures being taken by local authorities like Argyll and Bute Council to respond through partnership working, doubling council tax on holiday homes, enabling community-led housing projects, and bringing empty properties back into use.

However, Ms Burgess emphasized that councils cannot address certain key issues alone, calling for a national approach on matters such as, reducing high construction costs by specifying Scottish timber and new building standards; requiring developers to report annually on progress at consented sites; building capacity among SME construction firms and incentivising offsite manufacturing; providing a clear route for investing in town centre living, re-using empty properties; utilising taxation and enforcement to bring tens of thousands of empty homes back into use; and progress proposals to reform compulsory purchase and consider bringing in compulsory sale and rental powers.

Over the last 10 years there has been a 670 per cent increase in the number of long-term empty properties in the Highlands.

"Even with all these actions, we still face Scotland's long-term lack of land supply," Ms Burgess warned, urging that the upcoming Land Reform Bill must enable estates to be broken up to free land for housing when inherited or sold.

“At a UK level we must address VAT thresholds, reverse the near 9 per cent cut in the Scottish budget and reconsider the freeze on local housing allowance rates.

“We can’t continue to peddle the fantasy that we can invest in rebuilding the country after nearly two decades of austerity and stagnation without taxing those who are most able to afford it.”

She concluded: "Access to affordable, warm housing must be fair and equitable for everyone – it is the infrastructure our communities need and the foundation that enables everyone to play their full part in our nation."

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