Affordable homes ‘can kick-start economy post-pandemic’

Housing campaigners want next Scottish Government to commit to investing £3.4bn in housing over five years.

The next Scottish Government is being urged to kick-start the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery by committing to build more affordable homes.

Housing campaigners want whoever wins next May’s Holyrood election to commit to investing £3.4bn in housing over five years and to build 53,000 affordable new homes over the period.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has joined forces with the charity Shelter Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) to make the plea.

They argued such a move could get the economy moving, meet housing need and reduce child poverty.

The present Scottish Government has committed to building 50,000 affordable homes – including 35,000 properties for social rent – in this parliamentary term.

Ministers said they were on track to meet this goal before the coronavirus pandemic struck, causing work to be halted on building sites across Scotland.

In a new report, the three organisations say despite recent progress in increasing affordable housing more needs to be done.

The report, Affordable Housing Need in Scotland Post-2021, states: “While progress has been positive, if the Scottish Government is to genuinely meet affordable housing need then this is no time for complacency.

“Rather, recent progress represents an opportunity to further accelerate affordable housing provision in addressing the still significant need for affordable housing.

“We are calling on the next Scottish Government to set a target of delivering 53,000 affordable homes over the next Parliament (2021–2026) and to commit to a capital investment programme of £3.4bn over five years.

“This will allow Scotland to reduce housing need, tackle child poverty and kick-start its post-pandemic economic recovery.”

The current affordable housing programme has supported around 10,000 to 12,000 jobs in the construction and related industries in Scotland, according to the report.

But to meet the needs of Scotland’s increasingly elderly population, it says subsidies need to be “directed towards older people’s housing” – including new, purpose-built properties and adaptations to allow elderly people to remain in their existing homes.

SFHA chief executive Sally Thomas said: “Committing to this new target and building affordable housing must be at the heart of Scotland’s recovery as part of a Government and public sector-led approach, ensuring everyone has the home they need and, at the same time, giving confidence to full-scale economic renewal.

“A home has never been more important. This crisis has opened everyone’s eyes to the value of a safe, warm and affordable home.

“Housing associations and co-operatives will work with the Scottish Government to continue to provide the homes that are needed as the country recovers.”

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Scotland still faces a significant backlog from years of under-investment in affordable and social housing – a legacy which leaves people facing homelessness living for months, or even years, in temporary accommodation.

“The current affordable housing programme has brought security and stability to tens of thousands of people and hope to all who need social housing.

“To right the wrongs of the past, and to help our economy and communities recover from the pandemic, we must keep building.”

Callum Chomczuk, national director for CIH Scotland, said: “As the lockdown ends, we can’t go back to business as usual.

“We need to use our experience to build back better, with an ambitious plan for affordable housing at the heart of Scotland’s economic and social recovery.

“This isn’t the time for timidity. Politicians, from all parties, must think differently and recognise that we can choose to end homelessness, to end poverty in this country and give everyone the right foundation for safe, secure life.

“This all starts by building the 53,000 affordable homes the country needs.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “This is welcome research as we shape our approach to housing through our Housing to 2040 work, which aims to provide the long-term certainty that people and organisations across Scotland have called for.

“The Scottish Government recognises the important role that housing plays in tackling inequality, promoting social justice and securing economic growth. ”

He added: “More than 91,000 affordable homes have been delivered since 2007.

“We have committed a record investment of more than £3.5bn in affordable housing over this parliamentary term and beyond the current target period we have provided £300m interim funding certainty for 2021-22 ahead of the spending review later this year to ensure that affordable homes continue to be delivered.

“We remain absolutely committed to seeing more affordable and social homes delivered in communities across the country.

“The impact of Covid-19 means there has been a necessary pause in the delivery of the current 50,000 affordable homes target and once activity can safely resume, our immediate focus will be to ensure the delivery of the remainder of these homes.”

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