Blog: Housing has the power to change lives

Kevin Stewart
Kevin Stewart

Housing minister Kevin Stewart outlines the reasons for his support of this year’s Scottish Housing Day.

As housing minister I have seen first-hand the difference the right home in the right place can make to an individual, a couple or a family. Last month I opened a new housing association development and one of the families I spoke to, whose child has autism, told me their new home and its garden had made a huge difference to their son’s quality of life.

And earlier this summer I spoke to a husband and wife in their new council house. Their child has challenging medical and behavioural needs and they told me their new home, with its own level access and safe, enclosed garden has transformed their lives.

Everyone deserves a safe and warm place to call home, but we each have a different view on the physical form that home might take. That’s hardly surprising. Even our own housing needs change over time. Housing is a journey. What suits someone when they’re younger might not be what they want in later life.

That’s what’s so valuable about Scottish Housing Day. It’s both a chance to celebrate the work that all sorts of organisations are doing in housing- the distinctly Scottish approach we have- and an opportunity to make people more aware of the housing options available to them. That way they can make informed decisions.

The Scottish Government wants to make sure as many people as possible have housing choices. That’s why we’re in the middle of an ambitious programme to add to the number of homes across the country. We’ve committed to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 homes for social rent, by the end of this Parliament. It’s a bold ambition, but one that’s possible with the help of our housing partners across Scotland.

The focus of Scottish Housing Day this year on options for younger and older people is welcome. We’re working to address the problem of affordability, something that prevents many younger people getting on the housing ladder. Since 2007, our low-cost home ownership and shared equity schemes have helped over 23,000 households buy a home, with young people accounting for three quarters of those sales.

Many younger people rent privately and in this area the Scottish Government are planning big changes. In December we’re introducing a new type of tenancy- the Private Residential Tenancy- which will make tenancies more secure for tenants as well as providing appropriate safeguards for landlords. We’ll also introduce letting agent registration early next year, with training requirements and a code of conduct so we can expect to see higher standards of service to tenants and landlords.

While helping younger people find a home is important, we also want to help give older people access to suitable housing. We’ll shortly publish a five-year review of Age, Home and Community, our housing strategy for older people. And later this year we’ll publish a refreshed strategy to take account of changing need, demographics and help address issues of isolation older people can face as well as improving access to suitable housing.

But whatever your age, whatever your housing tenure, our homes should be affordable, high-quality and energy-efficient. By the end of 2021, we’ll have allocated over £1 billion since 2009 on tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency. That has wider benefits- when we improve the energy efficiency of homes across Scotland we’re also helping tackle climate change.

The Scottish Government can only deliver its ambitious housing supply targets with the help of councils, housing associations, private developers and others. Achieving our vision for housing and a fairer Scotland needs their hard work and commitment as much as ours.

That sense of common cause is why Scottish Housing Day- a day that celebrates and highlights everything the housing sector is doing to improve people’s lives- has become an important day in the Scottish housing calendar and I’m proud to support it.

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