Blog: A challenge that we must embrace together
Housing and social security have a central role to play in the Scottish Government’s programme for government 2015-16, published this week. CIH Scotland policy and practice officer Ashley Campbell takes a look at the detail.
The Scottish Government’s legislative programme for 2015/16 acknowledges the positive role that housing has to play in promoting social justice, good health and improving our environment. We note that the Scottish Government aims to surpass its target of developing 30,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the Parliament – each one of these homes represents a step towards meeting housing need across Scotland. The Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme has the potential to support people into home ownership as well as boosting the construction industry. The fact that 2015’s scheme had to close to new applications after just two months is testament to its popularity and we welcome the commitment to provide extra funding (with a focus on affordable home ownership) next year.
However, while we welcome these successes, we know that we need to do more. Building the number of new homes we need to house Scotland’s growing population will not be an easy task. It will require co-ordinated efforts from partners across the housing sector, local and national government and the private sector as well as significant reform to land and planning systems. It is a challenge that we must embrace together.
And in order to create a housing system that works for everyone, we need to look beyond new supply. How can we ensure that our existing homes are fit for purpose and are able to meet the diverse needs of a wide range of people? More than 900,000 people living in Scotland are aged 65+ and this number is expected to increase. We hope that the Help to Adapt scheme will provide the access to finance needed to support people to live in their own homes for longer, and we look forward following the progress of the pilot scheme. We are also keen to build on the integration of health, social care and housing which is essential if we are to develop a sustainable model to support our older people to live comfortably and with dignity.
The forthcoming Private Tenancies Bill represents an opportunity to increase standards in a rapidly expending sector which now houses more than 300,000 households in Scotland. We look forward to working through the details with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders. The introduction of measures to regulate letting agencies operating in Scotland also provides an opportunity to increase professional standards and improve the experiences of private renters. However, we would also welcome greater commitment from the Scottish Government on the measures it will take to support private landlords and letting agents in becoming more professional, bringing homes up to standard and creating a sector that is truly an attractive option for people looking for a place to call home.
Finally, we welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals to make use of new powers devolved through the Scotland Bill to improve the delivery of social security in Scotland. We have been engaged in discussions throughout the process of the Smith Commission, the draft legislation and now exploring the possibilities of how these powers can be used in practice. We look forward to further engagement with our members, the Scottish Government and other stakeholders. The programme is wide-ranging, taking in new housing supply, housing for older people, the private rented sector and social security, which we believe is essential – all of these elements and more must come together if we want to build a better housing system for Scotland.