WITH housing already a devolved matter, there is no need for Scottish politicians to wait on new powers in order to tackle the country’s housing crisis.
That was the charge made at a conference in Edinburgh examining barriers to increasing housing supply which was attended by over 120 senior industry figures as well as Housing Minister Margaret Burgess and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities James Kelly.
In the same week it was announced that Scottish house prices had reached their highest level since records began in 2003, Homes for Scotland Chief Executive Philip Hogg challenged politicians to take the bold and decisive action necessary to deal with the chronic undersupply of housing once and for all, saying, “Despite a growing population and over 150,000 on waiting lists, less than 15,000 homes were built in Scotland last year – a figure which is in stark contrast to 35,000 the Scottish Government said was needed each year by 2015 to meet demand and impact house price inflation.
“Now that the referendum is out of the way, it is essential that the attention of our politicians returns to ensuring Scotland has the warm, sustainable homes necessary to properly house its people. The recent debate in the Scottish Parliament was a welcome indication this has started but the fact is that the issues preventing home builders increasing supply are well understood and accepted. The social, economic and environmental benefits offered by building the hundreds of thousands of new homes that are needed over the next two decades are huge, but the age old problem surrounding the lack of suitable land in places people want to live remains and is being compounded by ongoing challenges surrounding mortgage availability as well as skill shortages and access to development finance, a problem which is particularly affecting small and medium sized builders.
“For years, successive devolved administrations have failed to get to grips with housing despite already having the power in their own hands. Politicians must therefore not be distracted by the Smith Commission in this regard. With the results of measures already taken south of the border on planning and assistance for buyers through the fully funded and extended Help to Buy shared equity scheme clear for all to see, the time for delay is over.
“The same support is crucial here in order to give both buyers and builders comparable confidence and certainty. We require action rather than rhetoric: action to give housing the political prominence it requires; action to address the deficiencies in the planning system; and action to ensure that Scotland remains a competitive place to invest.”