Letter to the editor: Grampian HA chief executive makes case for more affordable homes
I welcome the debate in Scotland where both Labour and SNP recognise that there is a housing crisis and both are making strong commitments to increase investment in affordable housing. It is an economic fact that every pound spent by government on social housing is more than doubled, even tripled by associations and councils when they build, with a big boost to the local economy and benefits to society.
The best way to revitalise Scotland’s economy is for the government to spend more now on infrastructure and it doesn’t get more fundamental to society than affordable housing. It is the most effective use of government capital. In the North East the pressure on existing affordable housing is massive. In addition industry and public services need more homes for working families in order to function and support the economy.
How and where investment is made is also important. Both major parties are set to put cash towards homebuyers in a housing market that is clearly not delivering for first time buyers or for society in general. Many initiatives don’t work so well in the North East because the cost of a deposit, let alone the price of a house, is too high. Some initiatives are self-defeating because by putting more cash at the disposal of buyers they inflate house prices further. Like any market the key issue is the balance between supply and demand.
The only way we are going to make a difference is by increasing the supply of new homes, whether that is for purchase or for rent, and by reducing the cost of housing. All parties are urged to support the building of new and efficient homes.
I am relieved that the parties in Scotland are largely supportive of affordable housing in all its forms and in particular social housing. It is good to see agreement on the end to the Right to Buy so what our communities have is protected. The parliament has focussed on homelessness, quality standards and fuel poverty and the nation is better for its concern with social outcomes. What is now needed is some big picture thinking across the political spectrum on the importance of affordable housing to working families, to employers, to commerce and public services, and above all to ending this growth-recession, where we consistently under-perform and under-utilise the talents we have.
Chief executive, Grampian Housing Association