Professor Ken Gibb: Celebrating the value of social housing
To mark Scottish Housing Day 2020, Professor Ken Gibb highlights the findings from the recent CaCHE research project on the impact of social housing in Scotland, which provides valuable insights that can be applied around the UK.
Wednesday 16 September 2020 is Scottish Housing Day, which is in effect a broad-based alliance making the case for more investment in housing and focuses on the impact it makes to people, communities and the nation.
This is very timely as it coincides with a major piece of research that we published last week that we co-authored with HACT for the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Public Health Scotland, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Rural and Islands Housing Association Forum. The research considers the many impacts housing associations have, be they, economic, social, health and well-being, and community resilience.
As part of CaCHE’s support for Scottish Housing Day, I felt it was worth reiterating the central messages emerging from this research.
The evidence is clear – social housing generates important economic and social impacts for its residents and communities across Scotland. We can measure these multi-dimensional impacts and demonstrate that they contribute to the national ambitions of Scottish public policy (the National Performance Framework).
The evidence suggests that investing in affordable housing promotes inclusive growth, creates jobs, increases GVA and generates large multipliers. This also helps to tackle inequality through reducing child poverty, homelessness and providing more housing options. Good quality social housing can improve health and wellbeing, enhance successful placemaking and be pivotal to supporting rural community resilience. Housing interventions can be preventative in that they can reduce spending required in other parts of public policy like health care or social security and successful housing associations can act as community anchors, trusted local leaders promoting economic and social cohesion.
If we explicitly seek to measure, monetise and thereby demonstrate the value of social housing (for instance, drawing on the HACT Social Value Bank), the housing sector can set performance metrics that they will be accountable for when they bid for funding, and this may be directly connected to the increased use of environmental social and governance impact measurement. This will also link directly to Scotland’s National Performance Framework (as elaborated on in the main report). This is a tremendously powerful interaction and one which can be further linked through HACT community profiles to the gap and needs analyses carried out in association strategy work which in turn links their purpose and objectives to demonstrable impacts they can achieve on the ground. This is also precisely why Scottish housing associations could play an important focused role in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report has five key recommendations:
- The Scottish Government should consider the design and quality of new homes so that they reflect what we have learned from COVID-19 about the importance of green space, energy efficiency, space standards, digital connectivity, and also complement new demand including changes to occupancy and location patterns as well as new schooling and care requirements.
- Alongside investing in new homes, there must also be increased in investment in our ageing existing stock, for instance, to suitably retrofit and reduce energy consumption.
- The wide-ranging and important benefits provided by social housing should be recognised and capitalised on, in the sense of ensuring that social housing plays a central role in how the Scottish economy recovers from the pandemic recession.
- Social housing providers and their partners should now develop their evaluation and appraisal activities explicitly to align evidence of impact to the National Performance Framework. This will help demonstrate value for money across the housing sector.
- To enhance local impact measurement, we encourage providers to continue to work with HACT and the SFHA developing good practice and tool kits with which to measure impact as a standard and normal activity.
- Professor Ken Gibb is the director of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence