Callum Chomczuk: Scotland, housing and the general election

Callum Chomczuk: Scotland, housing and the general election

Callum Chomczuk

Callum Chomczuk, national director at CIH Scotland, on what the general election means for housing in Scotland.

The declaration of a housing emergency by the Scottish Parliament and seven local authorities, alongside the introduction of a Housing Bill has dominated discussions of housing policy in Scotland for the last year. But as we are just weeks away from a general election the sector’s attention is turning to what a new UK Government might mean for housing in Scotland.

CIH is working with members, across all four nations, to put housing at the centre of political discourse, amplifying the message that housing must be a political priority for the next UK Government.

Housing policy is devolved, and has been since parliament was established in 1999, but the UK Government still controls a number of levers that impact on households north of the border. Making it vital that we ensure the sectors’ collective voice is heard across the UK on why housing has to be a political priority.

The first place to start is funding and the block grant. The total money available to the Scottish Government to spend is directly proportional to the spend on public services in England. If spending rises in England, then Scotland sees an increase through the Barnett Formula. In all parts of the UK, we want to see increases in public spending and that includes Scotland. That will then give the Scottish Government more flexibility for spending on housing.

More directly there are other measures the UK Government could take to help address the housing emergency in Scotland. Whether that is reversing cuts to the Capital and Financial Transactions Budget, ensuring that Local Housing Allowance rates permanently meet at least the 30th percentile of local rents, redress bedroom tax and other benefit cap policies or adequately resourcing local authorities managing asylum claims. These are reserved policy levers that are used correctly could transform the Scottish (and UK) housing system.

But to properly address the housing emergency the Scottish Parliament also needs to have powers to make its own decisions, not just hope that we benefit from decisions made at Westminster. That is why in Scotland the sector wants to see the Scottish Government given more borrowing powers- this would allow them to invest directly in the building of more social and affordable housing.

There is course more we could talk about when considering what the Scottish housing sector needs from the UK Government: from changes to energy policy to support decarbonisation of our housing stock to the stewardship of macro-economic policy and inflation so that interest rates and in turn borrowing costs fall for social landlords.

However, at this general election the call from Scotland is clear and simple: Help us address the housing emergency. Increase current spending, increase capital spending, improve the welfare system and give the Scottish Government more powers to make its own financial decisions. Collectively these policies would help end our housing emergency.

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