First Minister makes £3bn pledge to build 50,000 affordable homes
First minister Nicola Sturgeon has made an early election commitment to embark on a £3 billion programme to build 50,000 new affordable homes in Scotland if the SNP were to win a third term next May.
Announcing the policy at the opening of the SNP’s conference in Aberdeen on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said that housing will be “one of the biggest issues in the campaign”.
The first minister told delegates: “Making sure that everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to our government’s drive to make this country fairer and more prosperous.”
She added: “If we are re-elected next May, our target in the next parliament will be to build at least 50,000 new affordable homes.
“That commitment - worth more than £3bn - is a mark of the ambition we have for this country.”
Detailing the SNP government’s housing achievements to date, the first minister said: “We have a good record on housing. In this parliament, we had a target of building 30,000 affordable homes and we are on track to meet it.
“We also started a new generation of council house building. And we have taken steps to safeguard social housing for the future by abolishing the right to buy.
“We must now go further and we will. Our plans must be affordable. But they must also be ambitious.”
It is thought that around 35,000 of the new homes would be council or housing association properties.
The first minister’s plans were warmly welcomed by the sector.
Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland director, Annie Mauger, said: “We desperately need to build more new housing to help the growing number of people who are struggling to access a decent home at a price they can afford. Along with Shelter Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), we have called on all political parties in Scotland to make building new affordable homes a priority in their manifestos ahead of next year’s Holyrood election. Setting an ambitious target is an important first step in that process.
“However, we need radical solutions if we are going to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis. Our research with Shelter Scotland and SFHA has shown that we need to build at least 12,000 affordable homes a year for the next five years – double the level that is currently being delivered. We look forward to working with politicians from all parties to share the knowledge and experience of Scotland’s housing professionals so we can develop solutions that will work in practice on the ground.”
Mary Taylor, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) chief executive, said: “We are extremely pleased that the SNP has listened to SFHA and others by committing to build 50,000 new affordable homes in Scotland, nearly double the target in the current Parliament. The announcement of a pot of £3bn in funding gives room for significant subsidy to the social housing element at affordable rents. This will help our members to plan programmes of affordable housing on the ground. Our sector stands ready to work with the government to deliver this ambition.”
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, added: “Shelter Scotland has been campaigning for a step change in the supply of affordable housing in Scotland for many years. We are glad that our calls have been heard and welcome the first minister’s pledge to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes over the next five years to help tackle Scotland’s housing crisis. This is undoubtedly good news for people across Scotland.
“Whatever party is elected next May, Shelter Scotland will continue to work constructively with ministers, politicians and stakeholders to ensure that an affordable house building programme on this scale becomes a reality.
“It is only by delivering a real step change in the supply of affordable housing that we can bring hope to the 150,000 households currently on waiting lists for a home in Scotland and the almost 5,000 children who will wake up homeless across the country tomorrow.”
Scotland’s home building industry welcomed the news, pointing to the significant role the refocused successor to the Help to Buy (Scotland) shared equity scheme could play in achieving this ambition.
Philip Hogg, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, said: “We are delighted at the importance the First Minister has attached to housing and think that the new shared equity scheme announced in her Programme for Government could make a big contribution to increasing the supply of affordable housing whilst also helping to meet the home ownership aspirations of the majority of those living in Scotland.
“With every home delivered under the current Help to Buy scheme on average costing tax payers approximately £21,000 less than the grant funding required for a socially rented home – and the equity loans also being repayable - the figures are compelling.
“Indeed, targeting scarce resources to ensure we have enough warm, sustainable homes of all types to meet the housing aspirations, whatever these may be, of Scotland’s people is fundamental to achieving the First Minister’s goal of improving opportunity for all.”