Housing leaders issue budget call for new guarantee to protect social housing commitment
Housing charity Shelter Scotland has joined forces with CIH Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) in an open letter to MSP Kate Forbes, cabinet secretary for finance and the economy, to ask for a guarantee on the social house building commitment ahead of the Scottish Government budget announcement this week.
The letter outlines the importance of providing enough social homes to reduce housing inequality for good. The organisations outline why this is particularly critical following the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic that assumed everyone had a safe home to remain in when, in reality, people from marginalised groups, such as people of colour and disabled people trapped in inadequate housing had a very different lockdown to those in a safe home.
The housing leaders previously came together in June 2020 to publish research on how many homes were needed to reduce affordable housing need in Scotland. Over 42,000 people have no safe, permanent home and the ask was 37,100 targeted in areas of greatest need by 2025 and the government response was a commitment of 110,000. The letter is urging the government to ensure this ask is not forgotten, further deepening the housing emergency.
Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Scotland’s housing system is broken and biased and it is failing people. Never has the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable homes, 70% for social rent, by 2032, been more important or at greater risk.
“Housing supply is under unprecedented pressure and we need the government to protect its house building commitments in the forthcoming budget. We want to see a national effort to prioritise social housing delivery through access to supply chains, skills and resources while protecting tenants from unaffordable rents.
“People in Scotland who are homeless and badly housed cannot afford any further delays and we need an end to this.”
Sally Thomas, chief executive of the SFHA, said: “Scotland’s housing associations and co-operatives have gone to extraordinary lengths in recent years to build thousands of safe, warm, affordable homes in thriving communities. They are determined to continue playing their part in supporting their tenants, many of whom have been badly hit by the impact of COVID-19 and spiralling fuel prices.
“However, the rising costs of construction and pressure on supply chains means this job becomes more difficult every day. Our members need the Scottish Government to build on the financial support they have already offered so we can deliver the 110,000 affordable homes Scotland urgently requires. This issue cannot wait.”
Callum Chomczuk, national director (Scotland) of the CIH, added: “The pandemic has taught us all the importance of having a safe, affordable home and we recognise the significant investment made by both government and social landlord partners to increase social housing supply in recent years.
“However we still face a housing crisis in Scotland with tens of thousands of people either homeless or living in inappropriate or unsafe housing. Now is the time to recommit to building and funding the 110,000 net zero homes that Scotland needs over the next 10 years so that everyone has a place to call home.”
Speaking ahead of the Scottish Budget, which will be presented to the Scottish Parliament on December 9, finance secretary Kate Forbes said initiatives announced will help tackle the climate emergency, support economic recovery and reduce inequalities.
Ms Forbes said: “This is a critical time for Scotland - we are still in the grip of the pandemic and families and businesses across the country are bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis. However, in these times of crisis, we need to go beyond the norm.
“While the pandemic may have defined our lives in recent times, the Scottish Government is determined it does not define our future. The 2022-2023 Scottish Budget that I will present on Thursday is another stepping stone towards a fairer, greener, more prosperous future.
“This Budget will provide certainty and stability for families whilst working to reduce inequalities, the process for which has already begun with the First Minister recently announcing the doubling of the Child Payment to £20 per child per week from April next year, reaching over 105,000 children under age 6 in just four months’ time. When we extend the Scottish Child Payment to all under 16s at the end of next year, over 400,000 children and their families will be eligible.
“We will also invest in infrastructure that allows us to drive down emissions and create the green jobs of the future that come with the transition to a greener Scotland and set out plans to bolster our economic recovery and support our public services.
“This year’s Budget is set against a challenging fiscal backdrop as a result of the UK Government’s decision to reduce Scotland’s day-to-day spending by removing ongoing COVID funding, despite the continuing impacts of the pandemic. The Budget I will present on Thursday will enable the Scottish Government to make good on our promise to build a fairer, greener Scotland. That is our social, economic and environmental imperative.”
The letter reads:
Dear Cabinet Secretary,
The national response to the Covid-19 pandemic assumed everyone had a safe home to remain in. In Scotland we knew that wasn’t the case. The work of Scottish Ministers, Local Authorities, housing associations and the third sector to lift people off the streets and off other people’s couches averted the long-standing housing crisis becoming a public health crisis.
The reason that work was necessary however, was because we are still playing catch up to provide enough social homes to reduce housing inequality for good. Different people and different communities experienced the pandemic in very different ways. People from marginalised groups, such as people of colour and disabled people trapped in inadequate housing had a very different lockdown to those in a safe home.
In June 2020, when our three organisations came together to publish research on how many homes were needed to reduce affordable housing need in Scotland, you listened, and you responded decisively.
This week, as we look towards the announcement of the Scottish Budget, we hope you will hear us again. Never before has your commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable homes, 70% for social rent, by 2032 been more important or at greater risk.
Housing supply generally and social housing delivery specifically are under unprecedented pressure. The impact of global supply chain tensions, de-carbonisation costs and, post-Brexit skills shortages each mean that assumptions about how much investment was required no longer stand up to scrutiny.
We are writing today to ask you to protect the Scottish Government’s house building commitments in your budget. We recognise that this will take more money than was previously set aside.
We ask that you stand by the commitment to ensure affordable housing need will be reduced by the end of this Parliament and that you and your Ministerial colleagues will lead a national effort to prioritise social housing delivery through access to supply chains, skills and resources whilst protecting tenants from unaffordable rents.
People in Scotland who are homeless and badly housed cannot afford any further delays and we are calling on you to deliver your promise to them.