Craig Sanderson: Parliamentary committee sessions are a ‘must-listen’ for the housing sector

Craig Sanderson: Parliamentary committee sessions are a 'must-listen' for the housing sector

Craig Sanderson

Craig Sanderson reflects on two recent Scottish Parliamentary sessions on housing and encourages discussion at the CIH Scotland Housing Festival starting today.

“For as long as we continue to regard a house as a commodity to be traded for personal profit rather than a place to live then we’ll never address the basic human right of a truly affordable home.”

I first heard that expressed some 20 years ago.

I subscribed to it then – and I still do.

A Holyrood committee has been undertaking a short inquiry into the Scottish Government’s housing strategy.

The Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee’s first session on the 20th February 2024 was with representatives from the Strategy Board for Housing to 2040 to probe progress on the Scottish Government’s route map.

The second on the 27th of 2024 saw further roundtable discussions with stakeholders to provide the Committee with additional views on Scotland’s housing landscape.

Both sessions were expertly chaired by Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee convener, Ariane Burgess MSP, saying: “Scotland’s housing emergency continues to grow, and the Committee want to understand what impact this is having on the ambitions set out by the Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 strategy and whether the strategy provides the necessary tools to adequately respond.”

Ms Burgess is also vice-chair of two Holyrood Cross Party Groups – Housing and Social Enterprise – and was therefore keen to tease out comments from contributors not just about housing but also care, employment, financial pressures and other social justice issues.

Check out these lists of contributors to the discussion – a better set of experts would be hard to find!

First session on 20th February:

  • John Blackwood, chief executive, Scottish Association of Landlords;
  • Michael Cameron, chief executive, Scottish Housing Regulator;
  • Maureen Chalmers, community wellbeing spokesperson, COSLA;
  • Callum Chomczuk, national director, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland;
  • Colin Stewart, chair, North of Scotland Regional Network of Tenants and Residents;
  • Sally Thomas, chief executive, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA);
  • John Mills, co-chair, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO);
  • Jane Wood, chief executive, Homes for Scotland.

Second session on 27th February:

  • Chris Birt, Associate Director for Scotland, Joseph Rowntree Foundation;
  • Dr Caroline Brown, Director of Scotland, Ireland and English Regions, Royal Town Planning Institute;
  • Stephen Connor, Development Manager, Tenants Information Service;
  • Emma Jackson, Social Justice Strategic Lead, Citizens Advice Scotland;
  • Eilidh Keay, Representative, Living Rent;
  • Professor Ken Gibb, Director, UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, University of Glasgow;
  • Gordon MacRae, Assistant Director (Communications & Advocacy), Shelter Scotland;
  • David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation;
  • Ronnie Macrae, Chief Executive Officer, Communities Housing Trust;
  • Rhiannon Sims, Senior Policy Officer, Crisis;
  • Chris Stewart, President, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

In these times of policy-making and influencing via the incontinence which is social media, it was refreshing and stimulating to listen to such authoritative and considered opinions and suggestions.

There was widespread agreement that increasing the supply of new homes (especially those for social rent) was the most effective way forward.

Nevertheless, as Ken Gibb pointed out, a fundamental principle expressed in Housing to 2040 has received insufficient recognition.

Nothing has been done about the plan to ‘de-speculate’ the housing market and to reform taxation to support this.

That’s just one of many foods for thought in these ‘must-listen’ sessions.

They don’t come cheap - you’ll need to devote two hours to the first and two and a half hours to the second.

Time well spent!!

  • Craig Sanderson is a former chief executive of Link Housing and a member of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission
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