Callum Chomczuk: Scotland’s housing land
Callum Chomczuk, national director of CIH Scotland, discusses the need to consider land supply to deliver homes and build communities across Scotland.
The pandemic has taught us all the importance of having a safe, affordable place to call home, but with market trends in Scotland pointing to significant housing pressures what can we do to improve access to affordable housing in the short to medium term?
At the heart of the issue is the supply of new homes and enough land to build the homes that Scotland needs. Historically we have failed to meet the demand that exists and this has in turn increased prices to rent and to buy - making it increasingly unaffordable for people to have a home of their own.
So what can be done to help the 120,000 households on housing waiting lists and give families the chance to live in homes that are desperately needed across the country?
The Scottish Government has set out its new plans for identifying Scotland’s Minimum All-Tenure Housing Land Requirement (MATHLR) as part of the new National Planning Framework (NPF4). The consultation is ongoing, but the proposal sets out that all planning authorities identify in advance all the land they need to meet their area’s housing need over the next 10 years. This is a good start. We need to be able to plan for house building over the long term, outwith political election cycles, and a 10-year housing land supply will help us institutionalise the reforms we need to deliver a 10 year, all tenure housing plan.
But identifying housing land is only the first part of the problem. We also need to see land identification then matched with the appropriate infrastructure changes, not just energy, sewerage and roads - which are all vital. But also community infrastructure such as parks, shops, schools, services and protecting the natural environment. The things that turn a home into part of a vibrant community.
And then we need to help planning authorities realise the connection between these national strategic plans and their own local priorities. This means creating a structure of oversight and support through NPF4 that helps planning authorities address the housing crisis in a timely way.
None of this is easy and it will require front loading of infrastructure investment from the Scottish Government alongside a recognition that more money be required to build the homes Scotland needs. This includes an uprating of investment received by social landlords to deliver the 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 that the Government has promised.
However, by making these changes, by setting out a positive plan for new development and building homes we will see the money provided by the Scottish Government matched by councils and housing associations and in turn the private sector, demonstrating the sector’s role as a catalyst for public-private collaboration.
We know the benefits house building brings to families, communities and the economy. By developing an effective plan for housing land, housing infrastructure and housing supply, NPF4 - with milestones, budgetary considerations and outcomes - we can help drive the pace we need to see in Scotland’s home building programme. But only if we get these details right.