Firm Foundations – The Future of Housing in Scotland
Colin Armstrong, Scotregen
Meanwhile in the housing association sector, Firm Foundations proposes a radical overhaul of the subsidy and procurement system. The current system, where individual housing associations procure their own developments will come to an end. Instead a small number of specialist developer associations will compete for subsidy to deliver development programmes over whole housing market areas on behalf of all the housing associations in that area. The greater efficiencies promised by bulk procurement are expected to drive down subsidy levels.
The experience in England, where a similar system has operated for some time, is that significant efficiencies can be realised and more houses will be produced for the same level of subsidy. However, this has been accompanied by a raft of mergers as smaller local organisations are submerged into vast nationwide landlords with tens of thousands of houses.
Scotland’s smaller housing associations, many of them communitybased, have done a great deal to empower local resident and in the process have produced some of the most innovative and welldesigned houses in Scotland. The Scottish Government needs to ensure that these less tangible, but no less valuable, attributes are not lost in the push for more efficiency.
History can always provide us with salutary warnings. In two different passages of Firm Foundation the success of the CrownStreet initiative is highlighted. That initiative was a direct response to the housing policies of the last generation, who wanted ever higher unit outputs at ever lower costs. At Crown Street the ‘dampies’ of Hutchesontown E were replaced by a high quality mixed tenure neighbourhood. The focus was on building a place where people wanted to live and at its heart is a community based housing association that insisted on high quality design. Those of you who would like to submit comments have until 25/01/2008, see www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations.