The Housing (Scotland) Bill is a complex proposed enactment currently going through the Scottish Parliament. There is much in it that is thoroughly progressive and promises to help those in housing needs in Scotland. Such proposals include the long overdue abolition of the right to buy.
One proposed change includes improved regulation of the Short Scottish Assured Tenancy regime. These proposed changes have taken on board the views of the court in LSA’s test case (South Lanarkshire Council v McKenna).
The improvements to the regime include proposals for the housing provider to give reasons should they propose an eviction from a Short Scottish Secured Tenancy, as well as a requirement to provide a review process should a tenant be aggrieved.
All this is good stuff.
LSA was privileged to be invited to Parliament on 22nd January 2014 to make written and verbal submissions to the committee studying the proposed new law.
We took the opportunity to not only indicate what we supported but also the proposals that caused us considerable concern.
Those concerns arise from the experience of our work to the effect that, particularly in Glasgow, there is a major crisis of an increase in rough sleeping and fall in availability of temporary accommodation. Apparently this is caused by a lack of availability of permanent housing for people who are in temporary accommodation. In other words, a crisis in allocation of housing has a knock-on effect, resulting in the most vulnerable having nowhere whatsoever to stay.
The Bill, in our view, does not handle these issues in the right way.
It does not enhance the obligations of Registered Social Landlords (“RSLs”) to allocate housing to those in the most need. On the contrary, it increases the discretion landlords have not only to allocate but also to evict those it claims are guilty of anti-social behaviour.
It also makes it easier to convert existing Secured Tenancies to Short Scottish Secured Tenancies.
The policy behind the Bill seems to be to use the provision of housing as an increased way of disciplining people who have a variety of behaviour issues. This is, of course, an understandable objective on the part of housing managers, it risks, however, increasing the “underclass” of homeless people: a proportion of whom, though theoretically entitled to temporary accommodation, do not appear to be able to even get that.
LSA made robust submissions, both verbally and in writing. Copies of both sets of written submissions are on our website.
One aspect of the Bill that has caused widespread concern is the “watering down” of RSLs’ obligations to young people. LSA has joined in a campaign with Shelter Scotland, among others, to rectify this.
While we have grave concerns about the policy, the process of engaging with the Parliament and, more closely, with other voluntary organisations (including Govan Law Centre and the Law Society of Scotland, with whom we appeared) has been a positive one that we will build on for the future.