24 October 2017
NEED TO READ BEYOND HEADLINES IF HOUSING CRISIS TO BE SOLVED
HFS Chief Executive Nicola Barclay
Further to an interview in The Sunday Times in which I emphasised that solving Scotland’s housing crisis required a whole-system all-tenure approach, it appears that some people may have misinterpreted my remarks (indeed some misrepresenting them completely), framing them as being “anti social housing”.
With everything Homes for Scotland does focused on ensuring our growing population has access to a complete range of housing options in order to meet diverse need and aspiration, this is clearly not the case. Indeed, since it was established, Homes for Scotland has consistently highlighted the need to recognise the inter-dependencies between the public and private housing sectors and the importance of achieving a balanced tenure mix (as highlighted in our manifesto for the last Scottish Parliamentary elections).
For the sake of clarity, Homes for Scotland has never said (or implied) that “affordable and social rented house building was actually stymying the development of market housing”. And we are certainly not attempting to “stymie social housebuilding”.
It is also exasperating to see the myth surrounding land banking being trotted out again. Despite a number of studies, no evidence has ever been found to substantiate claims that this is being used to restrict the supply of homes or housing land. With it simply making no sense for developers to allow land that they have bought to lie idle when the only way of getting a timely return on their investment is to build and sell homes, the main constraints on the use of land for housing are related to obtaining all of the necessary approvals and agreements – a process which is lengthy, complex and unpredictable.
What I was actually highlighting in the body of The Sunday Times story was that focusing on one tenure at the expense of others will not, in itself, solve our housing crisis. The stark reality, whether some people choose to accept it or not, is that the current 50,000 affordable housing target can only be achieved if we also have a healthy private sector - since not only do private home builders make significant direct contributions in this regard, the same issues that affect them (such as the poorly performing planning system, front-funding of infrastructure and education provision) also affect the public sector.
Of course, it is right and proper to have a robust debate on the way forward for housing in Scotland, but please let’s read beyond regrettably-worded headlines and look at the real substance of the matter. Some, however, will never seek to engage positively and constructively. I believe that it is this kind of approach that does those looking for a new home, whatever the circumstances, the most misdeed.
Published 24 October 2017