Malcolm urges the new Executive to maintain Labour's commitment to affordable homes in Edinburgh
Debate on Housing Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab): I will concentrate on the supply of affordable homes, first considering Scotland as a whole, and then concentrating on Edinburgh and Leith.

The previous Administration was planning to build 8,000 affordable homes Scotland-wide this year. The annual total build has increased steadily, and 8,000 is the highest number for many years. The figure was based on analysis done by Professor Glen Bramley for the most recent spending review, which he updated last year for the forthcoming spending review. In his most recent, detailed and complex piece of work, "Local housing need and affordability model for Scotland: Update", Professor Bramley emphasised that need has increased substantially since his previous report, as a result of market changes. That is why the number of new affordable homes built each year must continue to increase. Like Stewart Maxwell, I signed the Shelter-inspired motion that was lodged before the election, which called for 10,000 affordable homes for rent to be built in each of the next three years. Patrick Harvie lodged the same motion this week.

As well as the market changes that Bramley emphasised, I flag up our ambitious 2012 homelessness target, which has been widely admired internationally. We should all be proud of the target. The forthcoming spending review will be critical in the successful delivery of the target. The Government needs to consider capital spend throughout the Executive and must give the utmost priority to our flagship homelessness commitment.

One of the most striking tables in Bramley's authoritative report appears on page 8. It shows the positive net need for new affordable homes in each local authority in Scotland.

The positive net need in Edinburgh is shown to be five times that in any other local authority in Scotland. Despite the budget allocation for affordable homes in Edinburgh being twice what it was three years ago, it is still well below the per capita Scottish average. That historic imbalance has begun to be corrected, but there is a long way to go. According to Professor Bramley, Edinburgh has a shortage of 2,500 affordable lets each year—and that is before we consider new homelessness rights and a projected 11 per cent population increase and 22 per cent household increase over the next 15 years.

This is an urgent social issue. A large number of individuals and families are excluded from the social rented sector and are unable to buy because the average house price in Edinburgh is around eight times the average full-time wage in Edinburgh. It is also a pressing economic issue. Employers in both the public and private sectors feel the impact of people's inability to access housing. The minister will have noticed that the Edinburgh problem is highlighted in the report issued today.

Some have argued that the problem in Edinburgh is not resources but land. Land is certainly an issue, and more has to be released for housing, both market and subsidised. We also need to find out urgently why the affordable housing contributions in private developments have been slow to come on stream in Edinburgh. However, the key land issue is cost. Land in Edinburgh costs three and a half times the Scottish average and therefore takes up a higher proportion of housing grant than anywhere else in Scotland.

In Edinburgh and elsewhere, the bulk of resources has to go into affordable rented housing. However, we also have to continue the very successful shared equity homestake scheme, which has helped hundreds of first-time buyers and others in Edinburgh, Leith and elsewhere in Scotland. That will be a much more effective way of subsidising first-time buyers than a blanket £2,000 subsidy, which has been condemned by all the well-known housing organisations.


I look forward to the autumn consultation on better value that Stewart Maxwell announced. I hope that a way will be found to spread housing subsidy over a longer period, without going down the private finance initiative route.

Will Stewart Maxwell follow through the logic of the Bramley report and of the report issued today? Will he ensure that, in the distribution of resources for new affordable homes, the particular circumstances of Edinburgh are taken into account?
June 21st 2007, (Columns 1067-68)