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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Politicians put under pressure to hear homeless voices

April 15 2011
What they will do for you (if you make them!)

A series of hustings, aiming to put housing and homelessness at the heart of the political agenda, is being held across the country ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary Elections on 5 May.

Organised by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) in partnership with other housing organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Housing, events were held in Edinburgh and the North East last month with MSPs called to account for their policies.

Further hustings will be held in Glasgow on 7 April, and in Ayrshire on 11 April. SFHA Chief Executive Mary Taylor said it was essential that politicians from all parties recognised the central role that affordable housing played in the whole of society.

She added: “Affordable housing providers in Scotland are facing many challenges – with big cuts in capital funding to build new homes, and a squeeze on the incomes of our tenants, due to welfare reform changes and the difficult jobs market.

“Politicians regularly tell us that housing is one of the biggest issues in their constituency postbag, and we want to see it getting as high a political profile as possible. It’s vital that as many people as possible attend these free hustings events to quiz their candidates on what they will do to tackle the shortage of affordable housing in Scotland.”

Meanwhile, housing charity Shelter Scotland has teamed up with the Electoral Commission to encourage people in rented, social or temporary accommodation to register to vote in May’s Scottish Elections.

People in these types of housing – or who are homeless – are known to be the most under-represented on the voting register, although they are eligible to vote.

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland are not on the electoral roll and therefore cannot vote.By registering, people can ensure that if they want to influence the outcome when election day arrives, they will have the opportunity to make their voice heard.”

Andy O’Neill, Head of the Electoral Commission in Scotland, said: “We want to make sure that anyone living in temporary accommodation has the information they need to make their voice heard on election day, 5 May.”

• How to register to vote – Go to If you have a temporary (or permanent) address, you can fill in your postcode and register online. If you have no fixed address you can still vote. Find your local Electoral Registration Office at the same website and contact them to fill in a “Declaration of local connection” form. You must register by 15 April if you want to vote in the Scottish General Elections.

What the parties say

The Scottish National Party (SNP) claims to be planning an ambitious council house building schedule over the next four years. But Labour accuses the ruling party is “failing badly”. The Scottish Conservatives intend to increase the involvement of charities in housing the homeless, while the Lib Dems stress the importance of supporting homelessness prevention services. The Scottish Greens would replace the Council Tax with a Land Value Tax, which they believe would be an incentive to build new houses. So who will get your vote?

Scottish Conservative Party: “Homelessness is a serious and grave concern and we must do all we can to ensure that new ways of housing Scotland’s homeless are explored and put into action. We especially would like to see heavy involvement from the third sector in doing this as they can often provide unique and thorough first-hand experience of helping those who are living rough on the streets of Scotland.”

Scottish Green Party: Greens propose the abolition of Council Tax and its replacement with a Land Value Tax that will make it uneconomic for developers to sit on land with planning permission for new homes and wait for the market to move, which the party hopes will be a real incentive to get building. They will also oppose the removal of the requirement for 25 per cent of homes to be provided in large-scale housing developments to be affordable ones.

Scottish Labour Party: “We need an urgent step-change in Scottish Government policy to deliver a major expansion in the number of affordable homes being built for rent. We need this now because a strategy for homes is also a strategy for jobs. The best way to deal with the housing crisis is to build more homes. And in these tough economic times, we will never abandon families facing the trauma of repossession. Local people deserve a decent environment to live, work and spend their leisure time in.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats: “There is a major challenge in tackling the housing shortfall and we are focused on helping deliver more homes for people that are affordable, both in the heart of towns and cities and in rural areas. We recommit to the 2012 homeless target and will put in place a package of measures to help meet demand with supply.” They also plan to offer early intervention programmes to those at risk of homelessness including those leaving care, prison or the armed forces, and to take steps to bring empty homes back into use.

Scottish National Party: Over the next four years, they plan to build 5000 new council houses across Scotland, a commitment that say will also support 8,000 construction jobs. They will also introduce a levy on long-term empty houses, which they claim will bring in up to £30 million of additional resources annually to help fund this new council housing.They have also pledged to support the Scotland Empty Homes scheme.