North East associations urge parties to address desperate need for affordable homes

Gordon Edwards, chair of Grampian Housing Association (left) and Liam Smyth, membership director of Aberdeen Grampian Chamber of Commerce
Gordon Edwards, chair of Grampian Housing Association (left) and Liam Smyth, membership director of Aberdeen Grampian Chamber of Commerce

Housing associations in the North East of Scotland are pressing the next Holyrood government to build more affordable homes to help rebuild the regional and national economies.

The plea for additional investment from Castlehill, Grampian and Langstane Housing Associations and Aberdeenshire and Moray Housing Partnerships has the support of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and comes as many working households have little chance of their needs being met by social housing. This includes key workers in the NHS as well as those employed in private sector industries such as, tourism and hospitality, all of which are critical in supporting economic growth.

The impact of the severe shortage of affordable housing was detailed at the launch of Build to Re-build, a Housing Manifesto for the North East and Scotland’s economy.

With the high cost of the private rental sector and housing market, the economy is suffering because people cannot afford to stay in the area. Recent research into recruitment and retention identified the cost of housing and general cost of living in the North East as a major factor in the struggle to find staff.

Speaking on behalf of the housing associations, Gordon Edwards, chair of Grampian Housing Association, said: “When Scotland goes to the polls on 5 May 2016 in the Scottish Parliament election, affordable housing needs to be in everybody’s mind. The North East only delivered half the number of affordable homes it should have built over the last five years, a shortfall of 2,000, and public services and industry alike struggle to recruit and retain key staff.

“In addition, the North East needs to attract up to 35,000 new workers over the next decade, so we estimate that as many as 23,000 new affordable homes are needed by 2025. A huge effort is required.

“We are calling for the next Holyrood government to invest in 3,500 new affordable homes for working families in the North East additional to existing spending levels and pledge 50 per cent or more, new build for working households to be for social rent. Action is needed now to tackle the shortfall.”

Build to Re-build2Five key areas for action have been identified which, if addressed, could reduce housing costs for working households, boost affordable house building, improve the planning process, see greater investment in public sector land to deliver affordable housing and ensure that economic needs are addressed by housing policy.

Gordon Edwards added: “Addressing the economy’s needs for affordable housing supports the Government’s aim to tackle poverty and inequality, because for many industries and parts of the public and voluntary sectors, we are talking about providing homes for working people on low incomes.”

Edel Harris, president of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and chief executive of Cornerstone (social care agency), who supported the creation of the Manifesto said: “Members of the business community have come together with local housing associations to make the case for a national rethink on affordable housing.

“This Manifesto calls for a commitment to improve the planning process and double affordable housing, investment in the North East in support of the economy and growth and to help working families and employers in the region make the best of their talent and ambition.

“We urge Parliamentary candidates to use this Manifesto to inform their housing priorities in the North East. The proposals have local focus, but the outcome is national and it is vital that action is taken now.”

Some of the proposals listed could be implemented immediately, others will take time and depend on political and budget process, but the point of this Manifesto for growth and sustainability is to find practical ways of delivering a more balanced and supportive housing market within the term of the next Holyrood Parliament, for both the Aberdeen City Region and rural areas.

Copies of the Manifesto will be distributed to all candidates in the North East as well as party leaders and policy makers.

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