Housing in Scotland still faces a number of issues as the sector prepares for the biggest housing conference in the country
Few people would disagree that having a place to call home is a basic, universal human need. Indeed, ‘home’ is something upon which so much else hinges: it impacts on people’s health, wellbeing, education, economic prosperity and quality of life. And yet it is something which remains out of reach for many people – the growing problem of affordability and the need for more new housing remains stubbornly ever-present. As the Scottish housing sector looks forward to the biggest housing conference in Scotland this March, it is facing a range of issues.
The number of new homes being built in Scotland each year fell below 20,000 in 2009/10 and now languishes below 15,000. The number of households living in Scotland is projected to increase by an average of nearly 18,000 each year until 2022. Meanwhile, our population is ageing and while modern medicine and advances in technology mean that more people can lead happier, healthier lives for longer, more people also require specialist housing and support to meet their needs.
We’ve had some better news in that the number of households presenting as homeless in Scotland has been steadily decreasing – that is a testament to the progressive legislation and housing options approach which together have put homelessness prevention and the right to have a secure pace to call home at the forefront of housing policy in Scotland. But a lack of affordable options means that those households that end up in temporary accommodation may find that their stay is longer than intended. Changes to the welfare system have served to frustrate the situation further.
Despite ambitious targets from the Scottish Government and extensive investment in the social and private sectors, 36% of households in Scotland are still living in fuel povertyDavid Ogilvie
Despite ambitious targets from the Scottish Government and extensive investment in the social and private sectors, 36% of households in Scotland are still living in fuel poverty. This problem is particularly acute for older people where insufficient heating can lead to health problems or worse. In Scotland, around 2,000 more people aged 65 and over die in winter months than in other months. What more can landlords do to tackle this problem and help tenants in need? Meanwhile, the global financial crash of 2008 combined with a UK Government culture of austerity has led to unprecedented levels of funding cuts across local government, housing and housing services. What does all of this mean for housing providers and their tenants alike?
The political landscape of Scotland changed forever on 18 September 2014 when we voted to remain part of the UK, with the expectation that Holyrood would gain more powers to make decisions on behalf of the people of Scotland. When the Smith Commission asked Scotland what powers they would like to be transferred, they received over 18,000 responses. It’s been said that Scotland has never been so engaged in the political process. But where will the issue of housing lie within the public’s new found political enthusiasm? And how will the outcome of the forthcoming General Election impact on Scotland in other ways?
These are just some of the key issues which will be explored at CIH Scotland’s annual conference with four key themes running over three days: Scotland’s Housing System; Affordability and Welfare; More than Bricks and Mortar; and Shaping the Future of the Workforce. The conference takes place between 10-12 March 2015.
In the weeks leading up to the conference, CIH Scotland will be hosting a number of Twitter debates featuring some of the speakers from our programme giving you a chance to get a taste of some of the sessions that will be running in March.
We are also giving housing professionals and organisations the chance to get involved by offering 10 minute slots for you to talk about best practice in the areas of tenant engagement and spotting the signs of poverty and how to address these. If you think that you have a project that is worth sharing, we want to know about it! As well as getting a chance to speak at the conference, winners will also get a free place at conference on the day of the workshop. Please e-mail [email protected] for more details or make a submission by summarising your work in 250 words.
David Ogilvie is head of policy and public affairs at the Chartered Institue of Housing.