Callum Chomczuk: UK Housing Review highlights Scottish supply challenges
In this new opinion piece, CIH Scotland’s national director Callum Chomczuk reflects on some of the Scottish findings from CIH’s UK Housing Review 2019.
Wanting a home of your own is the most normal thing is the world. We can all relate to the desire to have a place to feel safe, secure and in a community that means something to us. However, our recent report indicates that while there has been a lot of progress there is still much to do to fix the housing market in Scotland.
The UK Housing Review shows we have come a long way in the last three years, with a doubling of central government investment in affordable supply keeping us just about on track to deliver 50,000 affordable homes, a two-thirds increase on what was achieved over the previous five years, and the largest target of this kind since the 1970s.
However, behind that headline there are a number of threats to the target including the suggestion of stalling of output from local authorities which may undermine the target on building homes for social rent and the proliferation of holiday rents in different parts of the country.
Analysis suggests that although the grants for councils to build homes were uprated in 2016, this level may now be insufficient inducement to building, especially as receipts from house sales have now fallen away with the ending of Right to Buy.
Now the ending of the Right to Buy does provide an incentive to local authorities to kick start their own building programme, but after over 30 years of stock depletion it will take time to re-skill staff within local authorities, so they can build new social housing at the scale expected.
As such, it is critical that there is the security of long-term funding for social housing. We do not want to get to 2021 and find that that after 5 years of investing in and skilling up the sector, the money is not there.
With the Scottish Government already consulting on its housing plans post-2021, it is clear that a commitment to fund another 50,000 homes will be a challenge. That is why CIH, alongside Shelter Scotland and SFHA, is commissioning research that will set out the case for a long term funding commitment for a generation.
However, our report also identifies other challenges in maintaining supply that can be addressed today such as the growth of short term lets via platforms like Airbnb.
Yes, Airbnb is a global phenomenon but its presence is most noticeable in tourist hot spots across the country. For example, Edinburgh had 10,500 listings in June 2018, up from 1,900 in 2014, followed by Glasgow, with 2,700 listings and a number across the Highlands, with 850 in Inverness, 440 in Kyle of Lochalsh, and 330 in Fort William.
Incredibly, in Edinburgh City Centre ward, there is a population of around 23,000 people and 13,000 dwellings, and of these, over 2,000 are listed on Airbnb for the entire property. This means there are 2 Airbnb holiday lets for every THIRTEEN homes in the ward and this raises legitimate concerns about the unsustainability of a housing model that prioritises tourists over residents. It is clear the uncontrolled growth of holiday lets is depriving families and individuals of badly-needed homes in these communities and the surrounding areas.
We are rightly proud of the progress made in Scotland in recent years in providing affordable homes for our people. However, it is also clear that long term progress will be undermined if we do not address our policy failures and make a long term commitment to building affordable homes. This report is wake up call to complacency and a reminder that there is much to do to ensure everyone has a home that they can afford in a place they want to live.