RICS calls for new government to increase housing supply across Scotland

RICS manifestoThe Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is to launch its manifesto tomorrow which will call for essential changes to Scotland’s property sector.

Developed by RICS practitioners, property professionals and industry leaders, Shaping Scotland’s Housing Future aims to inform political parties of the role property plays in driving Scotland’s economic growth ahead of the Scottish parliamentary elections in May.

The report recommends the creation of a Housing Land Agency which would work with local authorities and developers by identifying new development sites and installing any necessary infrastructure for sites, primarily in areas of market failure.

It also calls for the improvement of existing residential tenements across Scotland, in order to sustain the quality of current housing stock for use by future generations. The Planned Maintenance Scheme would place a requirement, or encouragement, on owners of properties in tenements to undertake regular surveys and have in place a programme of maintenance management. This recommendation would go hand-in-hand with the proposed Help to Maintain Scheme which would provide funding for home owners to invest in their property to improve the fabric of its structure or energy efficiency.

Ian McKee, chairman of RICS in Scotland, said: “The chronic shortage of housing supply in Scotland has resulted in rising house prices and rents across the country. To remedy the shortage, Scottish Government policy is, and for a considerable amount of time has been, aimed at supporting demand and, more crucially, the new build market and home ownership.

“Indeed, the most recent policies and funding initiatives, such a Help to Buy and lower Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) rates for lower priced properties, are aimed at supporting first time buyers, yet there as be no Government support for those in properties who wish to extend, improve, enhance or, most importantly, maintain their property. The recommendations within this report focus primarily on vital methods of increasing supply and maintaining existing housing stock to provide a robust, sustainable approach to address Scotland current housing market needs.”

In order for the future government to increase housing supply, the report also calls for the introduction of Construction and Planning Skills Programmes in response to severe skills shortages within the sector. The latest RICS Construction Market Survey saw 66 per cent of respondents identifying shortages of construction professionals to be the most significant barrier to growth in the last quarter of 2015.

Sarah Speirs, director RICS in Scotland, said: “While workloads are still growing at a relatively healthy pace throughout Scotland, labour shortages in the construction sector continue to impact and cause delays at different stages in the development process, leading to significant problems with project planning. If we are to meet the supply and maintenance needs of the Scottish housing market, investment in skills programmes is vital for a robust future workforce.”

Shaping Scotland’s Housing Future will be launched at RICS in Scotland headquarters tomorrow.

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