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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 17:46 GMT
SNP plan to end housing 'crisis'
House building
Councils will be encouraged to build new houses
Plans to build a new generation of council houses and end the right of tenants to buy new-build homes have been announced by Scottish ministers.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the current housing system was not meeting Scotland's needs.

Ms Sturgeon was prevented from delivering the housing announcement in a statement to the Scottish Parliament.

Holyrood Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson made the ruling after details were obtained by the BBC in advance.

In a series of proposals laid out by ministers, Scotland's councils, developers and builders have been challenged to increase new house building to at least 35,000 a year by 2015.

The current rate of new house building - 25,000 new houses a year is simply inadequate
Nicola Sturgeon
Deputy first minister

Labour's Margaret Curran accused Ms Sturgeon of "political hypocrisy" by not including the removal of the right-to-buy in the SNP's election manifesto and failing to deliver on a pledge which was included - 2,000 grants for first time buyers.

Local authorities would also be handed incentives to be landlords, such as funding for new council housing, in a bid to end the "30-year rundown" of the practice.

And the right to buy would end on new social housing built by councils and housing associations, with an exception for existing tenants already eligible to buy their houses who are forced to move.

"It is a fact that the Scottish housing system is not meeting our needs as a country," said Ms Sturgeon.

"The current rate of new house building - 25,000 new houses a year - is simply inadequate.

"It can and must increase if Scotland's housing requirements are to be met."

'Devolve powers'

The SNP administration also announced plans to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder, through a mix of government grants, shared equity schemes and mortgage-related products.

Ministers will also press ahead with the controversial single survey plan for house sales - which they said would save first-time buyers at least 200 - despite its low take-up during a pilot scheme under the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration.

Tory health and wellbeing spokeswoman Mary Scanlon questioned how the government would ensure that the country's 2bn of council housing debt did not increase.

She added: "480,000 families in Scotland fulfilled an aspiration of home ownership through the right to buy the homes they lived in.

"Why should future generations be denied this choice, given that there is no research to prove that abolishing the right-to-buy frees up more affordable housing?"

Right-to-buy has benefited many people across Scotland in the past but it is time to recognise that there has been a cost to people stuck in the queue for housing
Archie Stoddart
Shelter Scotland

The Liberal Democrats' Jim Tolson backed the right-to-buy change, but asked that the full range of right-to-buy powers were devolved to local authorities.

Housing charity Shelter Scotland welcomed moves to build more houses but urged social rented housing to be made top priority over the coming years.

Director Archie Stoddart said: "These 35,000 homes a year will include all housing, from million pound mansions to maisonettes, or homes to buy or to rent.

"We believe this must include 10,000 affordable homes for rent. This means we can give people across Scotland, for whom owning a home will never be a reality, a real choice about having a decent and affordable place to live."

Responding to the moves to end the right-to-buy, Mr Stoddart said: "The scheme has benefited many people across Scotland in the past but it is time to recognise that there has been a cost to people stuck in the queue for housing."

Meanwhile in the Holyrood debating chamber, Mr Fergusson said he strongly objected to an advance leak of the statement, adding that it represented a "discourtesy to parliament".

Ms Sturgeon denied that ministers authorised a leak and is said to be "very angry and concerned" that key parts of the statement were made public before being delivered to parliament.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Government criticised over housing leaks



SEE ALSO
Housing 'right-to-buy' faces axe
21 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Single survey plan moves forward
20 Feb 07 |  Scotland
'We cannot ignore housing need'
14 Feb 07 |  Scotland
GHA 'must hold review on future'
18 Sep 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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