Sally Thomas: Housing associations need more support to continue vital work

Sally Thomas: Housing associations need more support to continue vital work

Sally Thomas

As the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) launches its ‘Housing at Scotland’s Heart’ campaign at its Annual Conference today, CEO Sally Thomas outlines why Scotland’s housing associations are key to ending homelessness, tackling poverty and dealing with the climate emergency.

During my time with SFHA, more than anything I’ve been privileged and proud to represent social housing in Scotland. Every day I get to see and feel just how much good our members do for communities the length and breadth of the country. But not everyone has the same opportunities.

That’s why today we’re launching Housing at Scotland’s Heart, a new campaign to highlight the vital work – going far beyond bricks and mortar – housing associations do, from helping people access social security to the very basics like food and fuel. A survey we commissioned ahead of our annual conference in Glasgow this week, found that at least 95% of members provide tenants with vital financial support and advice amid the cost-of-living crisis, while 58% provide access to food banks, 58% facilitate clubs and other activities, 62% offer mental health support, and 58% provide help with employability.

And that wider support is making a fundamental difference to people’s lives. As part of the campaign, we’ve produced a short film that outlines what a social home means for people. When we spoke to the tenants in the films, the wonderful Alec, Hazel and Sylwia, it’s clear that their home has been transformational to their lives.

As Alec says in the film, ‘with good housing, you can be the best version of yourself. It’s not just a roof over your head, it’s your life’s opportunities’. And I couldn’t agree more. A home isn’t simply a roof, nor simply an affordable rent, it’s your home. And home is the bedrock on which we build our lives, raise our families and so much more.

Of course, the survey findings don’t surprise me, I know that even through the incredibly tough times we’ve faced in recent years that housing associations are stepping up to offer the vital support Scotland’s communities need. They are equally clear that while they are proud to do this work, they need support from the Scottish Government to be able to continue it.

Amid punishing economic conditions and the need to maintain affordability for tenants, they also need to retrofit their existing homes to meet climate targets while developing the new homes Scotland desperately needs to alleviate the housing crisis and doing what they can to tackle the poverty many of their tenants’ experience. It’s no surprise then that in response to the survey, they called for more support from the Scottish Government to build new homes, reach energy efficiency targets and improve their existing housing stock.

Social homes mean social justice. Scotland’s housing associations and co-operatives are key to ending homelessness, tackling poverty and dealing with the climate emergency. They are at the heart of Scotland’s communities and, given the right support, they have the power to make people’s lives better in countless ways. We all know that decent, affordable homes are the foundation for people’s lives. A good home is the key to improved health, economic and educational outcomes, and it is everyone’s human right to a safe, warm, affordable and suitable place to call home.

I hope that in launching Housing at Scotland’s Heart we’re starting a long and much-needed conversation about not just the value of social homes, but why we must deliver more of them to build a fairer and better Scotland.

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