Craig Stirrat: Holyrood – we have a problem!

Craig Stirrat: Holyrood – we have a problem!

Craig Stirrat

Grampian Housing Association CEO Craig Stirrat offers his thoughts on the forthcoming release of the next Scottish House Condition Survey (2022).

With the (pre) announcement that the 2022 Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) is due by the end of February 2024, the paraphrase, “Houston, we have a problem”, popped into my head.

This paraphrase has been informally used to describe the emergence of an unforeseen problem, often with a sense of irony, and it did make me reflect that nationally we may be so preoccupied with the shortage of affordable housing across the nation – that we are distracted from the greater “ticking timebomb” of maintaining our current homes to ensure they remain fit for the future and are keeping our citizens safe and healthy.

In 2022 there were 2.70 million domestic dwellings in Scotland. This was an increase of 15% since 2002. However, new completions in June 2023 dropped to 5000 units (all tenures) adding just over 1% to the existing stock. So, it makes sense that strategically we understand as a nation where and what are the major issues with the existing housing stock and what are the likely solutions and costs.

In prioritising the allocation of scarce resources, Holyrood requires access to up-to-date data and to carefully consider what the housing data is telling us.

Unfortunately, current policy for delivering the Housing to 2040 strategy relies on national stock condition data that is at least now four years old. This data also did not permit any internal surveys (because of COVID restrictions) to assess the scale of, for instance, one of the most topical issues of the day, the incidence and severity of condensation and mould (I note in England a Parliamentary committee are now using housing conditions as a scapegoat for the pressures on the National Health service).

Now I for one do not suggest that condensation and mould is not an issue for many households that needs to be addressed, but in my over 40 years in Housing, I have never known a time when condensation and mould has not been a problem for some householders and impacted on their health.

What, Jim Lovell, the mission commander, Apollo 13, actually said to Mission Control after the explosion in the Command Module was - “Ah, Houston, we’ve had a problem”.
Like the Apollo 13 crew, many social landlords will be acutely aware they have a problem with maintaining their existing homes – we just need the most current and accurate housing data available to tell Holyrood what the scale of the problem is that needs fixed.

I for one hope the 2022 SHCS data can help us identify the strategic issues and priorities to help us as a nation to get back to where we need to be - and not be faced with yet another housing crisis.

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