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Storm over social housing investment

Communities minister Stewart Maxwell announces record investment in affordable housing, but figures branded 'misleading'.

He said more efficient use of taxpayers' money meant 21,500 new homes could be built over the next three years with £1.5 billion funds.

The number of houses is the same as pledged by the previous Labour-led Executive.

Mr Maxwell warned that the government had inherited "unsustainable" commitments and said "efficiencies" savings are expected in the sector.

He said: "Housing associations have an important and central role in helping meet demand and they provide the majority of new affordable housing.

"I look forward to working with them positively to help achieve our ambitious plans for housing."

Mr Maxwell said the government is working to achieve the 2012 target on cutting the number of homeless people and stressed a 19 per cent increase in funding, compared to the previous Executive.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland welcomed the funds but warned that the figures were "misleading".

Gavin Corbett, head of policy for the charity, said: "Today's announcement about how the budget cake from last year is to be sliced up is fine as far as it goes, but the real question lies in how big the cake is in the first place."

He continued: "Claims of an increased investment of 19 per cent are misleading.

"The increase in investment over the 2004 spending review period is much lower, at 9 per cent, after allowing for inflation."

The government's Affordable Housing Investment Programme is allocated mainly to registered social landlords, which will be allocated around 70 per cent of the money to meet demand for new social housing for rent.

Labour communities spokeswoman Johann Lamont MSP warned that the allocations were less than housing associations require.

Branding the announcement as a "slap in the face" for housing associations, she added: "Worryingly, Stewart Maxwell talks about 'unsustainable inherited commitments' but does not say what he means by that. He must come to parliament and say if this means he wishes to reduce support for social rented housing, independent living or projects that tackle homelessness.

"Those committed to housing across Scotland need to know which of these important priorities his government now wishes to drop."