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GHA repair bills lifeline for struggling owners

Mark Gibson

   
 

by Iain Lundy

OWNERS of former council house properties in Glasgow are to be thrown a lifeline to help pay for improvement bills.

In one of its most controversial initiatives the Glasgow Housing Association has speeded up improvement work on its former council house stock.

The moves comes after 86-year-old Mary McDonald, from Knightswood, was taken to court last year after running up a debt of more than £1000 over three years for repair bills.

The pensioner won her court battle against GHA in November but this was still little comfort to hundreds of homeowners who were left facing bills of up to £6000 to pay in just 12 months.

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Today dozens of home owners hit by bills travelled to Edinburgh to hand in a peition at the Scottish Parliament demanding an independent financial investigation by Audit Scotland into the programme.

But they are to be given help through the loans nightmare in a new pilot project announced today.

The scheme has been launched jointly by Communities Scotland and Glasgow City Council and is aimed at removing the threat of court action from people struggling to pay.

Problems have arisen as GHA has speeded up improvement work.

Many people who bought their homes and who share the property with GHA tenants are finding it difficult to pay for improvement works.

And because GHA has set a fixed period of 12 months for repayment, several owner-occupiers have been taken to court.

Last month the Evening Times revealed the plight of hundreds of residents given just one year to find up to £6000 for work carried out by Glasgow Housing Association on their blocks. Many now face legal action over the bills.

The new scheme, to be introduced in Glasgow before being run in other parts of Scotland, will include: •Emergency bridging loans to people facing court action; •Financial information and advice for home owners; •Help in getting affordable loans from the private sector; •Public sector lending for those who can not access mainstream lenders.

The “scheme of assistance” – part of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 – is intended to prevent people seeking help from loan sharks or other disreputable sources.

Communities Minister Rhona Brankin said: “The scheme is to be introduced across Scotland from 2008 and will change the way local authorities support owner-occupiers in dealing with repairs and improvements.”

Lawyer Mike Dailly of Govan Law Centre said: “We need a range of options but it’s common sense to introduce a scheme like this.”

Publication date 21/03/07

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