Changes to social housing lets

Berwickshire Housing
Berwickshire Housing

Local people on waiting lists for social housing could find themselves in a better position if Scottish Government housing reforms become law.

There has long been a perception amongst some social housing tenants, and those on waiting lists, that people from outside the area seem to take priority. While that perception may not always be supported by actual figures, politicians are aware of this growing concern and last week the Scottish Government introduced proposed changes that will give housing associations more flexibility to put the needs of the local community ahead of other priorities.

Berwickshire Housing Association’s chief executive, Helen Forsyth, said. “We welcome these measures which are an attempt to try and overcome the unintended consequences of some housing legislation from the past.

“We would like a little more flexibility to allocate housing to contribute positively to communities and to ensure local community needs are met.”

As well as providing more flexibility when it comes to prioritising waiting lists, the housing reforms would also give housing associations extra muscle dealing with anti-social behaviour and provides further protection for tenants.

“Although anti social behaviour is thankfully not a huge problem in Berwickshire when it does happen, it can be very destructive so having more tools with which to tackle it will be very helpful,” added Helen.

Statistics from the independent Scottish Housing Regulator indicated that housing associations recorded around 24,000 complaints about anti-social behaviour in 2009-10. Berwickshire Housing recorded 471 reports of anti-social/nuisance behaviour over that period, resulting in one full anti-social behaviour order.

This fell to 101 reports in 2010-11 and no ASBOs; but for 2011-12, the figure rose to 128 with one interim and two full ASBOs granted.

Outlining Scottish Government Housing Bill proposals, Minister ? Burgess said: “By giving landlords greater flexibility at a local level they will be able to respond to the needs of their local community.”

The Housing Bill includes: replacing outdated priority groups and giving landlords and communities more local flexibility; allowing landlords to consider a property that a social housing applicant already owns when allocating housing; introducing a qualifying period before succession to a tenancy following the death of a tenant; allowing a minimum period before antisocial tenants are eligible for social housing; introducing a new right for tenants to appeal a landlord’s decision to suspend them from being allocated a property; allowing landlords to give Short Scottish Secure Tenancies to applicants and tenants with a history of antisocial behaviour; and simplifying eviction of tenants convicted of a serious offence.