Today is a v big day in Festival land. It is the last day of the English Bank holiday weekend and as such we have had a massive influx of tourists keen to enjoy our various festivals. The noise from the High St drifts over to my office and I do enjoy the colour and spectacle of it all.
The Evening News ran a story this afternoon about a tenant who has waited 7 years to get a bigger house. I fully empathize with her. We have approx. 23,000 Council Houses, in excess of 5,000 people present themselves as Homeless each year and 1 in 5 of our Council households is overcrowded. This is a situation which has been around for a long time and it is only going to get worse for 2 major reasons.
Firstly our population as a city is expected to rise to the extent that we have to build 15,000 new affordable houses in the next 10 years and even under the increased levels of investment we have had this year we can't do that. Secondly we have an obligation to eradicate unintentional homelessness by 2012. That means those without a home will get preference to those who are in too small a home.
What am I doing about it? Well I have successfully campaigned for additional investment. The South East of Scotland received 15% of investment in Social Housing despite having 75% of the need. Only in the last few months has that picture begun to be turned around and I have to say I have a lot of time for the new Housing Minister at Holyrood who has played a blinder on this. Secondly I have put the wheels in motion for the development of an incentives scheme aimed at encouraging people to move from under occupied houses to smaller ones more in keeping with their needs. Our policy is moving in the right direction but it all take time and that is something we don't have much of.
More misery for the poor. The Government is set to cut up to 20% of the income of some of the country’s poorest people in April. They plan to alter the Local Housing Allowance could leave low-income families £780 worse off. At the moment, families receiving Local Housing Allowance (LHA) are able to keep up to £15 a week if they choose a home with a rent below the Local Housing Allowance maximum for their area. Ministers now propose removing this £15 a week payment with immediate effect in April. This has been a scheme which, according to rebel Labour MP’s, has actually saved the tax payer money! Such win wins are rare in Public policy and abandoning it seems politically stupid.