Tenant-power housing plan faces the axe

Tenant-power housing plan faces the axe
Peter MacMahon

18.09.07


An ambitious plan to break up Scotland’s largest block of former council homes into small, tenant-run associations is set to founder because of a lack of resources and lukewarm support from ministers.


The blueprint to transfer 80,000 local authority properties first to the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and then on to more than 60 local groups was drawn up by Labour ministers in the previous Scottish Executive.


However, a report from Communities Scotland, the housing watchdog, yesterday found there was now ‘strong evidence’ the plan will not happen because of a lack of money.


The report warned the GHA that it has just eight weeks to produce a ‘fundamental review of its purpose and future direction’ including on the transfer to smaller associations, known as the second stage transfer( SST).


According to the report ‘there is now a broader understanding about the difficulties in achieving’ the second stage transfer and ‘the financial barriers to progress’.


It added that there was ‘strong evidence that SST, as originally envisaged, is not possible’.


The GHA is planning to spend £10.5 billion – including money from rental income, grants and private funding – over the next three decades.


Karen Watt, director of Regulation and Inspection at Communities Scotland, said: ‘We found that the onward transfer of its houses to local organisations has been a major challenge. GHA should now lead a fundamental review of its purpose and future direction, including the future of SST.’


Taroub Zahran, the chief executive of the GHA, said: ‘The report says that we have done everything we could possibly do to deliver the second stage transfer but the evidence is that the finances are not enough to deliver that.’ She added that differences of opinion over the second stage transfers amongst the tenants would have to be taken into account.


Stewart Maxwell, the housing minister, said the second stage transfers would now only take place where they could ‘be sensibly achieved’, effectively ruling out most of them.


Mr Maxwell, whose party opposed the transfer from Glasgow city council to the GHA, added: ‘It is immediately clear that the previous administration failed to put in place a coherent long-term plan when the GHA was created.


‘What’s important now is that the interests of tenants are safeguarded. The clock is ticking – GHA now has eight weeks to produce a comprehensive improvement plan that addresses the concerns highlighted in the report.’


Bill Aitken, a Tory MSP for Glasgow, said: ‘We supported the transfer of housing stock to the GHA on the basis it would be transferred efficiently and rapidly to local housing associations. This report confirms the urgent need for that still to happen.’


• The Communities Scotland report graded the GHA’s performance as only ‘fair’, third place on a four-point scale which runs from ‘excellent’ to ‘poor’. Ms Zahran said fair was ‘good enough’.