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20/05/2016

Fixing the perceptions of home building

Homes / iStock_000020788340

Nicola Barclay hopes to one day get an election leaflet that says "I got 1000 new homes built in our area", but in the meantime, questions why house building is vilified.

One day, I hope to get a pre-election leaflet through my door that says: “Vote for me – I got 1,000 new homes built in our area! I helped create a new community, improved education and life chances for 2,000 kids and supported local shops and businesses!”

That’s what more housing does – provides a warm home and enables kids to make new friendships at schools. It creates more sustainable communities, which can improve local economies. So why is it vilified?

I guarantee that leaflets coming through my door before next year’s local elections will seek votes on the basis that the candidate opposed development and stopped developers making huge profits at our expense.

All private enterprise has to make a profit. It’s what businesses use to raise finance, to protect against the unexpected and to fund growth. What is it about home building that raises hackles?

Both industry and planning authorities must accept responsibility for past mistakes. Homes have been built with no community facilities or access to public transport, many with the lowest common denominator of building design. This hasn’t given communities confidence that developers or planners act in the interests of those living with the results of their decisions.

But I see examples now of well-designed masterplans that create a sense of place, incorporating community facilities, cycleways and bus routes.

"Where new homes have been built, have there really been the dire consequences that some in the community predicted?"

So how do we change community perceptions of home building? Why should we expect an existing community to act in the best interests of those yet to arrive? I believe we have to ask more from our local politicians.

They must recognise that, while many constituents don’t like change, as politicians they should have the interests of the whole community in mind (those who live there now and in the future). They could also consider the real impact of new homes – where they have been built, have there really been the dire consequences that some predicted? I believe not.

If we’re going to fix the perception of home building, we need to focus on the end user and not the producer. Yes, builders make a profit, but they also create homes for people to live in – and that benefits us all.

Next time you get a flyer, ask the politician why they are so proud to have opposed new development while a generation is locked out of home ownership. Better still; ask him what he is doing to help resolve the housing crisis. Only if they hear the voices of those in need will they ever consider change.

Nicola Barclay is chief executive of Homes for Scotland

Image credit | iStock

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