Scottish Government
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Housing policy debate

Scotland's housing system must adapt with 'radical thinking and bold new ideas' to the financial realities presented by reductions in public spending, according to a discussion document published by Scottish Ministers today.

Housing: Fresh Thinking, New Ideas poses fundamental questions about the way homes can be built, allocated, funded and managed in the future and is linked to a new website where members of the public can contribute to the debate.

An examination of where the Scottish Government's housing priorities should lie is also proposed: increasing social housing, supporting aspiring homeowners and reducing carbon emissions.

Scotland is facing 'unprecedented challenges'. Over the next 25 years, the number of households in Scotland is projected to increase by more than a fifth to 2.8 million - an average of an additional 19,000 households per year.

Continued effort is also needed to meet the 2012 homelessness targets, the needs of an ageing population and the annual carbon emissions reduction targets. Domestic emissions are responsible for 25 per cent of Scotland's carbon emissions.

Ministers also unveiled a Scottish Government-funded pilot project, the first of its kind in the UK, which will analyse thermal imaging scans of 10,000 homes across Scotland. The results will help the drive to tackle fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Housing is at the heart of our everyday lives and binds our communities together. Everyone - including government, landlords, lenders and builders - has a part to play in improving the housing system.

"This will not be easy as we face the prospect of sustained and substantial reductions in funding. That is the stark reality. So, just carrying on with what we are doing is not an option.

"There is an urgent need to adopt fresh thinking and new ideas to support increased supply, enhance the quality of existing stock and improve efficiency.

"Investment in housing has been a key plank of our Economic Recovery Plan, with accelerated capital expenditure, funding to kick-start council house building, the Home Owners Support Fund and new forms of investment in shared equity.

"We are spearheading new funding models such as the National Housing Trust and securing new sources of finance such as funding from the European Investment Bank.

"Rather than burying our heads in the sand, Scotland is leading the UK in facing up to public funding challenges. This is an opportunity to engage in an open, honest debate about Scotland's future housing policy, an opportunity we should all grasp."

Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil added:

"This paper represents a radical new approach to housing policy in Scotland. New ideas and fresh thinking include for example: finding ways to attract pension fund monies for investment in social housing, joint working with developers to allow low to moderate income first time buyers to buy their own home, supporting the private sector in offering more Rent to Buy schemes, an expansion of non-subsidised social housing projects and increasing the role of shared equity schemes.

"In addition to the ideas laid out in this paper, the Scottish Government's two Housing Bills will reform the Right to Buy, make private investment in new housing easier to do, crack down on rogue landlords and introduce a new deal for tenants of both social housing and private landlords.

"Taken together these measures represent a radical departure from the past and bring housing policy in Scotland into the 21st century."

The publication of the discussion document is the starting point for a broad discussion about housing policy. This will take place throughout the summer, with events across the country to discuss the various themes. Towards the end of the year the Scottish Government will publish a paper setting out our housing policy proposals.

3rd party quotes

A COSLA spokesman said:

"At a time of severe financial challenges across the public sector, it's right that local and national government reassess our shared short, medium and long-term approaches to big issues such as tackling homelessness and providing affordable housing.

"Housing issues are about much more than bricks and mortar, however, so we'll welcome the contribution of NHS, voluntary sector and other partners to the discussion."

Jonathan Fair, Chief Executive, Homes for Scotland:

"With such significant changes to the housing sector over the past two years, both within the public and private arenas, it is indeed timely for the Scottish Government to embark on a wide-ranging review and reform of Scottish Housing Policy.

"Many challenges and opportunities for innovation lie ahead of us, and so the home building industry will play an active part in this dialogue with Scottish Ministers. We will be seeking to identify the most effective policies and investment streams to drive substantial recovery in the number of new homes delivered across all tenures in Scotland."

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, housing and homelessness charity, said:

"The dire consequences of treating housing as a way to make money can be seen daily in communities across Scotland. Our housing future must be about ensuring that everyone has a home. That means no return to the high stakes house price roulette of the last decade.

"So this discussion document is both welcome and timely. But most importantly, it does not shirk away from asking the big questions about the challenges Scotland faces. The discussion must result in a vision on how Scotland provides 21st century housing fit for everyone and creates communities immune to the vagaries of the market."

Andrew Field, Acting Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said:

"The housing discussion paper raises some very necessary questions at a most important time.

"Future levels of public expenditure are under serious scrutiny and we must collectively consider how we can best meet housing supply, environmental and quality aspirations under such circumstances.

"First and foremost in our thinking must be the consumer of the services we provide as we strive to meet the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland.

"The strong focus therefore of the Paper on funding and management issues is to be welcomed. The SFHA will be engaging constructively with these issues in the months to come."

Jim Strang, Chair of Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, said:

"CIH Scotland warmly welcomes the discussion document. All of us in the housing movement must take this opportunity to consider new and different ways of developing new housing and making the best use of our existing stock in what will be difficult times.

"Our challenge is to be prepared to think outside the box and even dare to be radical, particularly in relation to how we respond to housing need, but without losing sight of those aspects of current provision which are working well."

Kennedy Foster, Policy Consultant, Scotland Council of Mortgage Lenders said:

"CML welcomes publication of this document and are more than willing to play our part in the debate on the future of housing policy in Scotland.

"It is certainly an appropriate time to have such a debate as measures to tackle to the national fiscal deficit are likely to reduce the amount of public finance available for investment in housing in Scotland and when also the level of finance available from lenders is constrained.

"To date at UK level Government policy measures have focussed on bank capital and liquidity and tightening mortgage market regulation. There is a need to focus on identifying a sustainable funding market going forward otherwise we risk there being a chronic under supply of credit -and the rationing of mortgages for customers-for years to come."

Tom Barclay
Scottish Council Member, Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors Scotland

"Securing the housing we need for the twenty-first century is essential and RICS Scotland welcomes the launch of the Scottish Government's discussion paper.

"RICS Scotland has already been working with Scottish Government on its review of the private rented sector and how it can contribute to meeting Scotland's overall housing needs.

"We are in the unique position of being able to bring together expertise from all aspects of the sector - not only those involved in housing management and provision directly but also the planning and construction aspects too.

"The real opportunity this paper will bring however, is the chance to have a fresh look at the housing situation in Scotland both in terms of improving existing resources and the potential for further development in what are financially difficult times."

Jim Harvey, Director, Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations

"Getting housing right is much more than a numbers game. GWSF will contribute ideas for positive change to this debate, focusing on affordability for tenants, the need for prudent and sustainable funding systems, and tackling the root causes of inequality in our communities."

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