Commission calls for ‘radical’ approach to tackle growing housing crisis

Robert Black
Robert Black

A major report has called for a radical look at the future direction of housing policy in Scotland and links the benefits of having a decent, safe and secure home to better health and life chances for all.

Published today by the independent Commission on Housing and Wellbeing and set in the context of a growing housing crisis and widespread poverty and inequality, Housing and Wellbeing: ‘A blueprint for Scotland’s future’ lays out a challenging programme for housing in Scotland.

The Commission, which was established two years ago by Shelter Scotland, makes 18 priority recommendations which it says would begin to address the housing-related poverty and environmental challenges currently facing Scotland. Failure to act now would risk Scotland’s future wellbeing, says the report.

Robert Black, chair of the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing, said: “This report is about the central importance of everyone in Scotland having a safe, secure and suitable home which allows each and every one of us to live fulfilling lives and achieve our potential.

“We are a long way short of this. There are about 150,500 households on waiting lists for social housing, 940,000 in fuel poverty and over 60,000 are overcrowded. With an averagely priced house now costing about five times the average annual income, owning your own home is becoming an unachievable pipedream for many people in Scotland, especially young adults and families.”

A key recommendation of the report is the need for a dramatic increase in house building and calls for the construction of 23,000 new homes a year, including 9,000 affordable homes. It also sets out the major challenges for the next decade on issues including housing benefit and council tax reform, freeing the supply of land for new housing, recognising and supporting the growing role of the private rented sector, and stepping up the pace in reducing residential greenhouse emissions.

Spending on housing should be seen as a preventative measure, the report also says.

Anne  Jarvie
Anne Jarvie

Anne Jarvie, former chief nursing officer for Scotland and member of the Commission, said: “During our consultations across Scotland, we heard the true life stories of people’s struggles with bad housing and homelessness and clear evidence of how these issues link to long-term health problems.

“Having to live in cold, damp and completely unsuitable properties or not having a permanent home risks the long-term physical and mental health and wellbeing of many people, particularly children.

“By acting now we can help to end this inequality and create an environment where current and future generations in Scotland can prosper and flourish.”

Cabinet secretary for social justice, communities and pensioner’s rights, Alex Neil, who is giving a keynote speech at the launch, said: “Housing is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s ambitions to create a fairer and more prosperous country, and it is our aim that everyone should have a safe, warm home which suits their needs and they can afford. Access to good quality housing is a vital part of this Government’s drive to secure economic growth, promote social justice, strengthen communities and tackle inequality.

“I welcome this report which contributes to our vision for housing in Scotland. Working creatively with our partners we have developed a range of pioneering, innovative approaches at maximum value for taxpayers’ money to tackle Scotland’s housing challenges. This includes tackling energy efficiency, housing standards and our commitment to deliver 30,000 new affordable homes by next year.”

Robert Black added: “The Commission is convinced that good homes are important for better health and educational achievement. They can lead to savings for the health service, for example, and it is clear that a safe, secure home is essential for children’s development and education.”

One of the 18 priority recommendations calls on the Scottish Government to establish an independent advisory body, chaired by the Minister, consisting of people not only from the housing profession and organisations, but also from a range of backgrounds and expertise which are relevant in considering housing, homes and wellbeing in the round. This body should report annually to the Scottish Parliament on the state of Scottish housing and the implications for wellbeing.

Graeme Brown
Graeme Brown

Commenting on the launch, Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “From the 150,500 people on council waiting lists for a home of their own and those living in overcrowded or poor quality accommodation, to people living with the high cost of private renting for whom the prospect of homeownership is increasingly out of reach, this report outlines the action that needs to be taken to provide hope for every family and individual affected by Scotland’s housing crisis.

“This report is a major step forward in understanding both the reasons for and some of the potential solutions to Scotland’s housing crisis. Good homes can and must play a central and critical role in helping to create good neighbourhoods, communities and the type of society our nation deserves, and from which we can all benefit.

“The challenge now is to ensure that as many of the priority recommendations in this report as possible are implemented by both local and national government as soon as is possible. Shelter Scotland will be closely monitoring the Scottish Government and wider housing sector to make sure that these recommendations are taken forward.”

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