The Common Weal think-tank has argued that the Scottish Government has to answer a number of questions about its closeness to the property developer lobby in Scotland, after new revelations by the investigatory journalist group The Ferret.
The Ferret revealed through FoI’s that not only have just three big property developers benefited to the tune of £189 million from help-to-buy subsidies, but that the Scottish Government has asked the property developer lobby to come up with evidence that will justify continuing the subsidy scheme.
The FoI’s also show that the property developer lobby Homes for Scotland rejected the idea of a small developers fund to replace the current Help-to-Buy scheme despite the huge profits made by just a few corporations. The small developer fund proposals have not been pursued by the Scottish Government as of yet.
The revelations come on the back of a new Scottish Government subsidy for property developers in the build-to-rent sector announced in October, the Rental Income Guarantee Scheme (RIGS), which was designed in partnership with Homes for Scotland.
Commenting on the findings, Common Weal head of policy Ben Wray, author of recent report on living in the private rented sector, stated: “These revelations open up serious questions about just how closely the Scottish Government and the property developer lobby are when it comes to designing housing policy.
“It’s perfectly reasonable that Homes for Scotland is listened to, but the Scottish Government appear to be reliant on the lobbyist for evidence to justify policy which its most wealthy members benefit from directly. The fact that HfS are direct partners in devising the new build-to-rent subsidy raises further alarm bells about the closeness of this relationship.
“The Ferret FoI revelations also show that HfS has specifically rejected a small housebuilder fund to replace the current help-to-buy, which the evidence shows is a cash cow for a few big corporate developers. HfS do not represent all opinion on housebuilding and all housebuilders in Scotland, and the Scottish Government would do well to remember this.
“Common Weal will be watching the Budget closely next week to see if subsidies for big corporate property developers are maintained, or if full funding commitment is put into building public rental housing.”