Scotland on target to deliver biggest boom in social housing since the 1970s

CommonSpace, by David Thomson


Scottish Government has got a target of building 50,000 new affordable housing by the end of this parliament.

New research has revealed that Scotland is on course to achieve its pledge of delivering the biggest boom in new social housing since the 1970s.

An independent report commissioned by Shelter Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and Human Rights Commission Scotland found that the Scottish Government is on course of meeting its target of building 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament.

The data predicted that 49,773 new social housing units will be built by 2021, of which this will make up 96 per cent of the total for new build in council housing.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This report is good news for the 137,100 households on council waiting lists and many others waiting for homes with housing associations. It shows that with the right political leadership Scotland’s social housing sector is ready to rise to the challenge of delivering the largest increase in social sector homes since the 1970s.

“Within our grasp, for the first time in a generation, is a significant increase in the affordable homes that so many badly need.”

Sally Thomas, chief executive of the SFHA said: “We welcome the report’s findings which show the 50,000 affordable homes target is potentially within reach. While contributing towards this target has not been without its challenges for our members – for example, the availability and cost of land – housing associations and co-operatives have proven that when set increased targets and given additional funding, they will deliver. Sixty-six percent of the new homes will be built with an RSL as lead developer.

“However, the report also found that it is difficult to fully assess what type of housing is being built and where. In order to ensure that the correct type of housing is built, for example, for people with additional support needs, and in the areas where it is needed, this must be addressed, and this report is the first step in achieving this.”

The Review of Strategic Investment Plans for Affordable Housing report says that the £3bn programme to build new affordable housing is the biggest undertaken since the 1970s, leading to a net increase of 25,000 new homes. Compare to England where they are set to lose 120,000 council houses, where the policy is still in place for tenants to buy their council homes.

However, the report has raised concerns that it is difficult to tell whether the right types of homes are being built in the right areas.

The report is calling for more details in this area as this is a critical element in determining the success of the government’s house building programme.

Both the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Labour have both welcomed the report but raised similar concerns.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said that currently there is a “massive demand for housing” in Scotland as a result of “massive changes in demographics”, such as the rise of single person households and divided families as a consequence of estranged partners leaving the family home.

Scottish Labours’ housing spokesperson, Pauline McNeill, called for a “serious plan for a far larger social housing” to help change people’s mindset about renting.

She added: “Scottish Labour would invest more in good quality council and social housing, with a mixture of home types, ensuring these options were both attractive and available which would help to relieve the pressure so many young people feel about home ownership.

“We need an ambitious programme to expand number of rented properties to tackle the housing crisis and a real plan to support social landlords and councils as key drivers in the delivery of homes for social rent.”

Scottish Government Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “I am pleased that this report recognises that we are on track to achieve our commitment to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over this parliament, with at least 35,000 of those for social rent.

“Ensuring everyone has access to a safe, warm and affordable place to call home is at the heart of our ambition for a fairer Scotland – and we are delivering on this ambition through ensuring we have the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution, with £3 billion in this parliament alone.”