Jane Wood: Scotland’s people deserve better on housing

Jane Wood: Scotland’s people deserve better on housing

Jane Wood

In the wake of Homes for Scotland’s annual conference and ahead of next month’s Scottish Budget, chief executive Jane Wood repeats the trade body’s call for local authorities to be adequately resourced to deliver much-needed new homes.

Last week, Homes for Scotland held its annual conference in our great capital city, less than a fortnight after the City of Edinburgh Council declared a housing emergency. Sadly, this reflects the unfortunate reality across the country. I believe that Scotland’s people deserve so much better and it’s time to stop going round in circles on what is the foundation of our society.

The chronic lack of homes is continuing to grow with a shortfall of 114,000 accumulated since 2008. With a downwards trend in housing starts and a huge fall in residential planning applications, this is only set to get worse.

We believe our country needs to return to pre-financial crash levels of building at least 25,000 new homes of all tenures per annum to begin to address the situation. After the war, new towns like Glenrothes were built to create much needed homes, so it is possible with the required political will and leadership in place.

With more households and children than ever before living in temporary accommodation, we need similar ambition now.

It’s clear that housing is a long-term gain with significant short-term issues. One of those issues is the sluggish planning system. To be fair, Paul McLennan, the Scottish Government’s housing minister, recognises this too. Home builders are understandably frustrated with delays but local authority planning departments are very stretched and need more funding. That is why we have repeated our call, ahead of the Scottish Budget, for local authorities to be adequately resourced to provide the skills and resources required to facilitate new housing rather than restrict it.

Lack of housing is a key factor in what are increasingly missed opportunities in terms of job creation, inclusive economic growth and investment in local infrastructure. This is a view supported by the wider business community including Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance who says that decent affordable housing is key to attracting talent to work in his sector. Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, also says his sector is being held back because of a lack of housing for workers in the rural areas in which their members operate.

It is important for wider society to recognise that home building is a force for good. This includes our politicians who may on the one hand talk about the need for more and better housing yet oppose it on the other as well as those who may complain about the high price of housing or that family members have nowhere to live but then object to new homes being built in their local community.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. But it is incumbent on us all to play our part and we need political leadership and bold action, delivered at pace, to overcome this. Current and future generations must have access to the range and choice of homes they deserve and can afford. Anything else would be a failure not just for our members, but for everyone in Scotland.

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