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Blog: Much to welcome in the Housing Bill – but some concerns too

Adaptations report

27 March 2024

Scotland’s new Housing Bill contains plenty of reforms that will be welcomed by older people, especially those on low or modest incomes. The growing number of older people living in the private rented sector, 39% of whom are living in poverty, will be reassured by the pledge to keep private rents affordable for all.

However we are concerned about rent controls being designated by local authority as that could lead to a postcode lottery of affordable rents, depending on which part of the country you live in.

We also welcome the new homelessness prevention duty which protects older tenants at risk of eviction and homelessness. With homelessness applications among over 65s up 23%, and more than half of those people living with additional support needs, we believe better partnership working is essential to help older people live in housing that meets their needs.

For example, GPs are more likely to see older people with the first signs of needing additional support, so we would call for them to be included as part of this joined-up approach. Planning ahead would also prevent older people reaching crisis point before support becomes available.

We would urge the Housing Minister to progress reform of national housing adaptation strategies and are disappointed to see no mention of this in the Bill. Older people should not be facing homelessness because of unsuitable housing that could be, but isn’t, adapted for them.

Many older people require adaptions to their home to enable them to live safely and independently, and enshrining their right to do so regardless of ownership status will be a huge relief for many older people, particularly in the private rented sector where we know older people often feel afraid to ask their landlord for permission or challenge decisions.

We would ask that the Bill includes clarity on what adaptations tenants are allowed to make under Category 1 and Category 2 changes, so that older tenants are clear in what changes they can make, confident in planning for their future housing needs, and importantly are not penalised by landlords’ interpretations of what is or isn’t allowed.

Consultation with tenants, landlords, and relevant stakeholders on what would be included in both categories is essential to ensure that necessary changes to a property are able to be made.

We do welcome the right to keep a pet. We know from earlier research that many older people say their pet or the television is their main form of company, and pet ownership brings with it mental and physical health benefits.

Now, importantly with these new rights, there must also be a targeted campaign at older tenants making them aware of their rights, how they can enact them, and where they can go to for support.