Sector calls for Scottish Government to increase affordable homes target



housingThe Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has called for Scotland’s affordable housing target to be increased in order to meet housing need across the country.

Responding to the latest housing statistics, which show that the Scottish Government is on track to meet its five-year target to deliver 30,000 affordable homes by March 2016, the SFHA said it will work to ensure that even more people benefit from the improved health and wellbeing which comes with a good quality affordable home.

Alan Stokes, SFHA policy lead, said: “While we welcome (yesterday’s) figures, and acknowledge that the Scottish Government is on track to meet its current target, we still need to be building a significantly higher number of homes than are currently being built in order to meet housing need across the country and to derive the undoubted economic benefit of an increased house-building programme.

“We will continue to work with our members and the Scottish Government to increase the amount of affordable homes that are built as good quality affordable housing is vital for improving the health, life chances and wellbeing of Scotland’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland said the rise in new homes is “encouraging” but is still 9,500 fewer than pre-recession levels.

Policy and practice officer, Ashley Campbell, said: “These latest figures show encouraging signs of recovery in the number of new homes being completed, including a record number delivered by local authorities over the last financial year. The Scottish Government has also committed itself to surpass its target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes over the current term of the Scottish Parliament, which is hugely welcome.

“At the same time, the number of new homes being completed by housing associations is 45 per cent lower than it was in 2009-10 when completions by that sector reached a peak of more than 5,500 units. Overall, we are building 9,500 fewer homes per year than we were prior to the recession. In the lead-up to next year’s Holyrood elections, we look forward to a stimulating debate with all parties about how we can deliver many more new homes to meet growing demand in Scotland in the years ahead, while recognising the considerable financial constraints we currently face.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, argued that the progress “is nowhere near meeting the level of demand”.

He said: “With (yesterday’s) figures showing there are still 150,000 households on council waiting lists across Scotland, it is clear that demand remains high and much more needs to be done.  With only 4,221 homes for social rent built between April 2014 and March 2015 the Scottish Government is not meeting even its own estimates of the number of homes needed to match demand for affordable housing.”

Graeme Brown added: “To meaningfully tackle current and future demand for affordable housing the Scottish Government must embark on a radical programme of new house building, with a commitment to build at least 10,000 new homes for social rent each year for the foreseeable future.

“Only then will we be able to meaningfully address Scotland’s housing crisis and tackle the poverty and inequality that is so often tied up with poor housing in Scotland.”

Highlighting his concerns over dwindling social housing numbers, Co-Convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie said that while there has been an increase in supply of new housing by 7 per cent from the previous year, the steady decline in public sector housing supply has continued.

In 2014, there were 317,572 local authority dwellings in Scotland, resulting in a decrease of 588 from the previous year. Furthermore, sales of public authority dwellings rose by 26 per cent.

Patrick Harvie MSP said: “While schemes like Help to Buy open up home ownership to many people who previously didn’t have this opportunity, we should be clear about the limitations of such programmes. The latest figures show there is no end in sight for the destruction of social housing in Scotland.  Schemes to encourage buyers do nothing to ensure that those who are far off from being able to afford a mortgage have a place to call home.

“A rapidly increasing number of people have been pushed into the private rented sector because of a steady decline in the number of socially rented homes available. This is of huge concern for all those who cannot afford to buy and for whom astronomically high rents in the private sector are simply unaffordable.

“The socially rented sector is vital to Scotland, and we cannot rely on market solutions alone to deliver decent housing for our society. While supply of new homes is a welcome development, the Scottish Government must not lose sight of the urgent need for good quality, secure socially rented homes.”

Homes for Scotland reinforced its call for early clarity on the details of the successor to the hugely successful Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme if such an increase is to be maintained.

Philip Hogg, chief executive of the home building industry body, said the positive position for the year to end March 2015 has been driven by an 11 per cent rise in the number of private sector-led completions.

He added: “Whilst these figures represent an overall and welcome move in the right direction to addressing the country’s housing crisis, it should be recognised that this recovery is largely as a result of the current hugely successful Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme.

“In order to maintain this positive momentum, we now need clarity on the qualifying criteria for the recently announced £195m successor to this scheme so that builders can forward plan before the introduction of the new initiative in April 2016.”

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