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12 June 2019

S5M-16487 Housing Co-operatives

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16487, in the name of Johann Lamont, on a new report calling for more housing co-operatives in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Co-operatives UK report, Shared space—how Scottish housing co-ops build communities; notes that the report identifies significant benefits delivered by co-ops through the key themes of affordability, empowerment, community and stronger social housing; recognises that the report states that Scotland has just 11 registered housing co-ops, compared to 685 across the UK, at a time when 150,000 people are on council house waiting lists; agrees with the report’s findings that the decline of social housing stock in Scotland and parallel rise of the private rented sector has created a major challenge for those looking for affordable homes in the social rented sector; understands that the report highlights the excellent work of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op, based in the Glasgow region, as an example of a housing co-op creating “a safer estate with warmer, more attractive homes”; notes that the report has recommended an eight-point policy plan to help deliver more housing co-ops, and notes calls for the Scottish Government to encourage more housing co-ops in Scotland in order to create safer and stronger communities that offer affordable rents and more power to tenants.

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17:10

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I congratulate Johann Lamont on securing the debate. Unusually—because these are not words that I often say—I also congratulate James Kelly, who I see is the author of the foreword to the report. The report is excellent, and it is a considerable credit to Parliament that a cross-party group can produce such a substantial contribution to a very important debate.

Johann Lamont referred to the imbalance between the number of housing co-ops in Scotland and the number south of the border. I am never afraid to pick up good ideas from wherever they come, including from south of the border, so I immediately turned to section 08 of the report to look at what it says. In my brief speech, I will not explore it in any great detail, but there are a considerable number of things to say.

The co-operative movement in housing is an important part of creating housing for people across Scotland. It can contribute a great deal to filling the gap that Scotland has suffered from—as the rest of the UK has—since the right to buy was introduced in 1980, which resulted in 2.6 million houses across the UK being sold out of public housing stock. Co-operative housing associations can play their substantial part in creating housing for people who otherwise find it difficult to get housing outside the private sector, in which housing is often very expensive and is not always of good quality, and in providing the living space that is essential for people who want a good standard of life.

Rent prices are going up, and people are being encouraged to invest in buy-to-let properties. The primary focus with such properties is the landlord’s interest in making a profit. In co-operative housing, the people who live in it are at the centre of decision making. That is right and proper, and it unlocks the potential of many people who have, in too much of their lives, little opportunity for their voices to influence the important things in their lives. Co-operatives in general, and housing co-operatives specifically, can make a particular difference to people’s quality of life. It is a neighbourly and collaborative way of making decisions that can encourage social bonds and collective responsibility, which strengthens society as a whole. When people in co-operative housing collectively decide what their priorities are for their area, the whole area gets something that is an example right across communities.

I was particularly interested in the example of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative, which has been mentioned. Its work extends far beyond provision of housing. Johann Lamont referred to power bills being frozen, which comes from addressing fuel poverty—which has, of course, been before us in Parliament this week.

There is a challenge for young people, in particular. The number of young people who live in rented accommodation has risen and is higher than it was in my generation and in others that followed. It is important that we strike the appropriate balance between privately owned and social housing. Co-operatives can play a very important part in that strategy.

I think that Johann Lamont and I were both members of the Communities Committee—she was the convener and I was a humble back-bench member. I remember that time occasionally, with fondness. I remember her robust engagement on issues that came before the committee: she has always done that. I congratulate her again on bringing an important topic to Parliament and giving us the opportunity to discuss it. I also congratulate all the co-operatives and their members.

17:14

Stewart Stevenson
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