New affordable homes in Scotland would 'kick-start economy'

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Affordable housingImage source, Getty Images
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The campaigners want to see more than 50,000 affordable homes built in Scotland

The next Scottish government is being urged to kick-start 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.

They are also calling for 53,000 affordable new homes to be built.

The Scottish government said it remained "absolutely committed" to seeing more affordable homes.

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

'No time for complacency'

The present Scottish government has pledged to build 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 pandemic struck, causing work to be halted on building sites across Scotland.

In a new report, the three organisations say that 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."

The current affordable housing programme has supported about 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.

What are the three organisations saying?

"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."

Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive

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

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland

"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."

Callum Chomczuk, national director for CIH Scotland

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said the report was "welcome research", adding that the Scottish government recognised the "important role" housing played in tackling inequality, promoting social justice and securing economic growth.

"More than 91,000 affordable homes have been delivered since 2007," he said.

"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."

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