Linda spoke in the debate on 16 September:
” I was pleased to read the discussion pieces that the Chartered Institute of Housing published. I declare an interest: I am a fellow of the institute. In its discussion pieces, the CIH explored difficulties to do with housing finance in the United Kingdom… Its points about resource availability are important in the context of the massive cuts in budget that the Scottish Parliament faces, which will reduce our ability to deliver for our communities, including on the provision of much-needed new housing.
“The cuts flow directly from UK Government action to reduce the public sector deficit, and the CIH discussion pieces remind us that, despite Labour’s 13 years in power, the UK still uses a definition of public expenditure that counts more housing expenditure in public sector net borrowing than is the case in most of the European countries with whose deficits the UK’s is being compared. The CIH has campaigned on the issue for years. The previous UK Government understood the issue at an intellectual level but chose to do nothing about it, which has a bearing on the impending cuts. Perhaps the minister will raise the issue with the current UK Government, to ascertain whether there can be movement on it.
“I move on to the role of co-operative and mutual models in delivering good-quality housing. After a discussion in the Scottish Parliament cross-party group on co-operatives, the minister and I visited a housing co-op in Easterhouse to meet representatives of the sector. It is clear that a great deal can be done in Scotland and in Westminster to strengthen the role of housing co-ops…
The absence of a legal framework for co-operative housing is part of a wider neglect of the mutual sector in the UK… How can we expect wider society to take co-operative and mutual models seriously, when UK Governments seem so uninterested in their operation? …
“The sector has suffered from a serious lack of backing from UK Government and it has faced a number of obstacles—intended or unintended—to its growth…As the minister knows, an advance since devolution has been the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator’s decision to allow housing co-operatives to register as charities. He will also be aware, as many members are, that the approach is threatened by the Calman proposals. I would welcome his comments on the matter.
“A recurring theme in the many debates that there have been on housing policy has been the need for communities to be empowered to make choices about how they want their housing to be provided and run. People who have wanted to choose the co-operative model have found that the obstacles are far too difficult to overcome, so their choice has been limited. In my experience, few communities are more empowered than communities that have a well-functioning housing co-operative. It is a pity that, after so many years of Labour administration in Scotland and in Westminster, we do not have more housing co-operatives in Scotland.
“The minister has acknowledged the need. For the first time in the Scottish Parliament, housing co-operatives have been mentioned as a viable proposition in discussion papers on housing. I remember a time far back when I was a member of a parliamentary committee with responsibility for housing and I tried to get co-operatives recognised in legislation, only to be voted down by Labour members.
“I ask the minister to consider what can be done to include a real co-operative option in Scotland’s housing future.”