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26/02/2018

Scottish Government affordable housing target ‘within reach’

Words: Laura Edgar
Affordable housing / Shutterstock_509223637

New research has suggested that the Scottish Government is on target to reach its affordable housing target to deliver 50,000 homes over this Parliament.

Shelter Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), and the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland commissioned a report in order to “better understand” how the Scottish Government will deliver on its target in practice.

The report considers all 32 council Strategic Housing Investment Plans (SHIPs) and associated documents. Additionally 25 interviews with council staff and others were undertaken, as well as three case studies.

According to the Scottish Government, the target is backed by over £3 billion. It represents a 67 per cent increase in affordable housing supply, with 35,000 to be delivered for social rent.

Review of Strategic Investment Plans for Affordable Housing notes that the government’s programme is the biggest undertaken since the 1970s and is set to deliver a net increase of 25,000 new homes to the country’s social housing stock – after demolitions or other losses are included.

This, the report states, is in “stark contrast to England, where the number of socially rented homes is predicted to fall by 120,000”, with the ability Right to Buy still available, unlike in Scotland.

The report says that as it stands, “delivery of affordable homes from April 2016 to March 2021 is estimated at between 45,387 and 49,773, with up to 34,850 being socially rented”. So, it continues, the target of 50,000 and 70 per cent socially rented “is capable of being reached”.

However, it adds that it is difficult to tell whether the right homes are being built in the right places – a crucial point in determining the overall success of the programme.

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.

“However, whilst the headlines numbers are very encouraging, it is not yet clear if the right sort of homes are being built in the right places where people want to live. We need more detail and clarity on that crucial element of this programme.”

Sally Thomas, chief executive of the SFHA, said: “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 cooperatives have proven that when set increased targets and given additional funding, they will deliver. Sixty-six per cent of the new homes will be built with an RSL as lead developer.”

Thomas said the SFHA would like to see the government and all political parties commit to long-term funding of affordable housing beyond the lifetime of the current Parliament, to make sure that the homes needed for future generations can be delivered.

Kate Houghton MRTPI, planning policy and practice officer at RTPI Scotland, told The Planner: “It is great to see housing providers delivering on the target for more much needed affordable housing, and we should celebrate the contribution that planners will have made to this. But housing delivery is not just about numbers – a long term solution to Scotland’s housing crisis will depend on new homes being built in the right locations, with easy access to services, sustainable travel options, green infrastructure and jobs. This is a good start, but RTPI Scotland wants to see a broader vision of creating places for people, not just numbers of units.”

Review of Strategic Investment Plans for Affordable Housing can be found on the Shelter Scotland website (pdf).

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