Builders warn that action is needed to avoid ‘perfect storm’ affecting housing ambitions

Nicola Barclay

HOMES for Scotland (HFS) has called on the Scottish Government to focus on ‘clarity, collaboration and consumers’ to avoid a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions threatening housing ambitions.

The trade body has been hosting its annual conference, held virtually this year, with a theme of ‘The Challenges of Change’.

Member representatives attended sessions devoted to the upcoming planning system changes and the transition to net zero housing, all of which is happening as builders contend with material and labour shortages as well as escalating costs.

Tom Arthur MSP (minister for public finance, planning & community wealth) and Patrick Harvie MSP (in his new capacity as minister for zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights) both addressed the conference.

HFS chief executive Nicola Barclay said, “At a time when home builders are facing change and uncertainty across so many important areas, it’s not only essential that we hear from our politicians but also that they hear from our members directly. Planning is make-or-break for housing delivery so it was reassuring to hear from Tom Arthur on his determination to make it an enabler of government strategy.

“At a time when a strong relationship between the Scottish Government and home builders is essential, it was heartening for our members to hear first-hand of his desire to work positively with the sector. That is a timely message as the development of National Planning Framework 4 moves rapidly towards the consultation stage, where an exciting conversation on future development is promised.

“On the transition to net zero housing, we were encouraged to hear that Patrick Harvie confirmed key commitments on a public engagement strategy and to grow the supply chain and skills base to meet the rising demand for zero carbon heating systems.

“HFS supports the destination the Scottish Government is aiming to reach. Indeed, new homes are already well on the way to this goal with emission levels already down 75% on 1990 levels. However, our members are clear that Government action to address industry concerns is needed now if the sector is to deliver what is expected of it. And, of course, public awareness and buy-in is key. Are consumers in Scotland ready for the change that is required, both in terms of cost and behaviour?

“Across the day, the emphasis on collaboration from both ministers was extremely welcome and we very much hope that this results in a genuine partnership that provides the clarity and clear direction that members require so that, together, we can develop an optimal solution which delivers the best possible outcome for Scotland.”