Last week, at an event I was attending as a Labour candidate for the Scottish Parliament, I was asked a question. The question was, “what is the most important issue in your area?”
My answer was twofold.
Jobs, and the quality of that employment, is clearly a priority for North Ayrshire. We need good quality jobs and an industrial strategy that helps regenerate our area and creates jobs. We need to tackle the forms of employment on offer – we need jobs that pay at least the Living Wage and offer guaranteed hours. We need to tackle the issue of underemployment.
The second part of my answer was housing.
Last June I launched a campaign called ‘Home Sweet Home’. I launched that campaign because we face a housing crisis in Scotland.
There are currently over 5000 families on the housing waiting list in North Ayrshire.
People, particularly young people, are struggling to get on the housing ladder and home ownership amongst under 34 year olds has fallen 15% under the SNP to its lowest level since the Scottish Parliament was established.
Too many, particularly young people, are being forced into the private rented sector, with sky high rents, because they have no other housing options.
Through my campaign I wanted to highlight these problems and campaign for change.
When I launched the campaign I said;
“Housing is not a commodity, it is a basic right and good quality housing changes people’s lives. It therefore shouldn’t be the case that only those who can afford to buy it can have housing options. I want everyone to have that basic right.”
I am therefore absolutely delighted that Scottish Labour will be offering Scots the most comprehensive housing plan for generations at this May’s election.
We will build the council houses that local families need, 60,000 across Scotland over the next Parliament.
We will tackle rip off rents in the private rented sector by supporting rent controls, a move that will make the private rented sector fairer for those who have to use it.
And we will support young people to get on the housing ladder, by offering people who save through a first time buyer ISA up to the value of £3000 an additional £3000 towards the cost of a deposit to buy a property.
The combination of all three policies means that Scottish Labour will radically change our housing system and ensure that everyone has the basic right to good quality housing, with a greater choice.
Labour was the party that dramatically changed housing after the Second World War, with a mass council house building programme which turned slums into the homes that local families still live in. We are now, once again, offering the bold, radical change that will deliver the houses we need for generations to come.
This is exactly the sort of change that I was campaigning for when I launched ‘Home Sweet Home’. It will help thousands across North Ayrshire and I hope that local people will back us so that we can deliver the plan in May.