This week I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities requesting a meeting to discuss a number of issues including housing.
Housing or a lack of affordable and suitable housing is in my mind one of the biggest social and economic problems faced by a majority of communities in Scotland.
I come across case after case week after week and I find it heart breaking that families, single people, older people and children can be in such dire straits and yet Scotland’s media pay little attention and the issue remains so low on the political agenda.
This cannot be allowed to continue as we will never tackle poverty and inequality if we cannot tackle Scotland’s housing crisis.
173,587 households on council housing waiting lists.
36,000 applications accepted as homeless.
75,000 households deemed as overcrowded.
The rate of new social sector housing completions fell by 44% between 2010 and 2014from 5,7000 to 3,200.
11,000 households are living in temporary accommodation.
1 in 10 households in Scotland affected by damp, condensation or both.
Over the last ten years, the number of people living in the private rented sector has doubled to 368,000.
The Herald newspaper run the good news story this week that North Lanarkshire Council will build an additional 1000 houses on top of the 800 already in their plans.
Fife Council has just completed a 5 year 2,700 new build programme which did not get lots of coverage but has made a big difference to the families and individuals who have been able to get a home as a result.
Across Scotland councils are doing their very best but we continue to have what Shelter call a ‘housing crisis’ and that is why we need a more joined up approach.
The Scottish Government must put in place a coherent plan to tackle Scotland’s ‘housing crisis’. That is the message I am aiming to get across this week as I visit new council house building projects to highlight the level of housing need across Scotland and is why I have written to Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance calling on the government to publish a ‘National House Building Strategy’ for Scotland.
We cannot and will not tackle poverty or inequality in Scotland until we address Scotland’s ‘housing crisis’. Whilst the SNP government have said they will build a minimum of 50,000 affordable houses over the next 5 years of which 35,000 will be for social rent, the lack of detail and a strategy for delivery is cause for concern.
I am asking the government to work with local councils to establish housing partnerships that can address the availability of land, the requirements of planning, local housing needs analysis and the creation of private public partnerships to ensure mixed housing developments across communities. Done correctly, a new house build programme can address many issues in the current housing waiting lists supporting peoples changing housing, personal and wellbeing needs.
There are also economic opportunities for local jobs, training and apprenticeships. A national 5 year house build programme with the potential to commit to ten years can allow for proper planning of apprenticeship programs that will tackle the skills deficit in the building industry. None of this is rocket science, we have a clear commitment from the government to build 50,000 affordable houses 35,000 of which is for social rent, this in turn brings real opportunity for addressing housing need, creating jobs and giving thousands of youngsters a trade.
What we need is a clear plan and a strategy for delivering it nationally and locally.
Shelter Scotland say we need at least 12,000 new affordable homes each year for the next five years to tackle the crisis.
The commitment from the SNP government is therefore a very welcomed step in the right direction but if we do not put in place a national plan linked to local delivery plans then we miss a big opportunity to get it right for every person with a housing need, not to mention the massive economic benefits we will fail to harness.