New housing strategy planned amidst culture of cuts

A hod carrier climbing a ladder The new group replaces the Housing Supply Task Force

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Experts are to help to flesh out the blueprint for Scotland's future housing policy.

The Housing Policy Advisory Group (HPAG) will offer strategic advice on upcoming policy reforms in the face of anticipated spending cuts.

Representatives from a large number of interest groups including councils, homelessness charities and mortgage lenders will be involved.

The new group takes over from the Housing Supply Task Force.

Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil recently said: "Everyone agrees that over the next few years public spending will be cut to the bone.

"With that in mind, traditional methods of providing and investing in affordable housing, while guaranteeing value for taxpayers' money, require a radical rethink."

David Melhuish is attending the meeting as a representative for the Scottish Property Federation.

'Baton of investment'

He said private investment in property had diminished considerably over the past year.

He raised concerns over the public purse's capacity to "pick up the baton of investment" in the face of cuts, especially with regards to crucial infrastructure.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "Less money means fewer affordable homes unless we can get smarter.

"We need to build more homes but it's not just about new homes, it's also about making best use of the ones we have.

"For example, bringing empty homes back into use, reforming the right to buy and finally, making sure that when someone has a home they keep it, so less evictions, less repossessions and better support."

Mr Neil also said: "More than at any time before, there is an urgent need to adopt fresh thinking and new ideas to support increased supply, enhance the quality of existing stock and improve the efficiency of the housing system.

"The Housing Policy Advisory Group will pick up where the Housing Supply Task Force left off, helping to drive forward and give clear direction to that process."

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