At Shelter Scotland we believe there should be a decent and affordable home for everyone. Since our beginnings, 50 years ago, in 1968, it is what we have been fighting for. It is what we will keep fighting for.
It is therefore shocking that 50 years on new independent research carried out by Ipsos MORI has revealed we still have a stark housing divide in Scotland and that 1 in 3 homes do not meet the Living Home Standard. That’s the equivalent of around 816,000 homes in Scotland not meeting people’s expectations of what a good home should be – affecting around 1.8 million people.
For this new research we took a very different and innovative approach, by asking people themselves to say what mattered to them in a home. Together what they told us makes up the Living Home Standard, based on five areas: conditions, affordability, space, stability and neighbourhood.
The main reasons people’s homes did not meet the standard are decent conditions and affordability. Broadly, people feel their homes offer enough space, security and a decent neighbourhood. But quality expectations have moved on – for example, in energy efficiency – and too many homes fall short. And, equally, there is a worrying gap in the cost of housing compared to incomes.
However, that very broad conclusion hides a much more damning message. The gap between housing aspirations and what our homes actually do is not evenly spread. For those who are young, who have children, who rent or have lower incomes the gap is very much larger. Surprising? Perhaps not. But damning all the same – a housing divide should be a thing of the past.
In 50 years there has been massive change in Scotland: socially, economically and in the homes in which we live. Compared to the 1960s standards have changed dramatically from the days of coal-fired rooms and outside toilets. On the other hand, access to affordable housing has become more difficult and housing costs have soared.
Over the last two years we have seen cross party consensus on the need for more homes to be built. The Scottish Government’s commitment to build 50,000 affordable homes, 35,000 of them socially rented, has been widely-hailed as the most ambitious programme since the 1970s. Our recent report – Review of Strategic Investment Plans for Affordable Housing, with other housing bodies shows that it is within reach of being achieved.
But what kind of homes? Who are they for? And in which neighbourhoods? A house is not a home until it provides the quality, space and environment in which the people living in it can flourish and very importantly which they can afford. Our founders back in the 1960s understood that, which is why so much of Shelter Scotland’s early work was in supporting the very new bodies called housing associations to renovate Scotland’s older housing stock, and to improve neighbourhoods that otherwise faced demolition.
And it is also why the Living Home Standard report published today is so important. Over the decades, there have been many standards for housing: the Parker Morris standards, the tolerable standard, the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, to name only a few. All of them defined by professionals. However, what we have created through the Living Home Standard reflects what people want a home to provide – a standard created by the public for the public.
And above all, what this report shows is the housing divide which persists in Scotland. To create a fairer Scotland we must address that divide. I hope that this report can offer an opportunity to urgently think about the next big horizons in housing provision. Not just how many homes, but how those homes are within reach of those who most need them. Not just better standards, but how those standards are delivered on the ground. And not just better legal protection, but how that empowers people to insist on their housing rights being met.
These are the landmarks for the next fifty years and we must urgently tackle the housing divide which still exists in Scotland today.
- Debbie King is the 50th projects coordinator for Shelter Scotland
This article was originally published on the Shelter Scotland website.