Blog: Progress towards 50,000 homes
As new research by Shelter Scotland and SFHA shows that Scotland is broadly on track to deliver its 50,000 affordable homes target by 2021, CIH Scotland's policy and practice officer Susanne Flynn looks at some of the challenges ahead.
The Scottish Government has pledged to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2021. While short of the 60,000 we called for in 2015, it is nonetheless the most significant capital investment in housing in generations.
Almost 2 years in to the 5 year programme, Shelter Scotland and the SFHA have helpfully undertaken research which shows the housing sector looks to be broadly on track to deliver this target, with a prediction that between 45,387 and 49,773 new affordable homes will be built by 2021, including up to 34,850 social rented homes.
However, the research also identified a number of key questions that need to be addressed if progress is to continue over the next three years:
- Are the plans for the delivery of the 50,000 homes target feasible and deliverable?
- What more can be done to secure delivery?
- What are the main priorities for monitoring?
In terms of the feasibility, questions remain around land supply and the cost of land, frustrations over the implementation of adequate infrastructure for new developments, the willingness of banks to lend to RSLs, and the impact of Brexit and an ageing workforce on the construction industry.
When it comes to delivering on the target, there needs to be a much more detailed conversation about the role of off-site construction and modular homes to provide affordable housing while helping to alleviate a critical skills shortage in the construction industry.
Delivery could also be aided by the creation of more strategic planning posts within local authorities, a tier of local government which has seen a rapid decline in recent years. While this is a particularly challenging issue to overcome, initiatives where developing RSLs could be encouraged to help fund such posts could go some way towards helping to tackle this problem.
Critically, there is a lack of good quality public data and information around social housing provision. We don’t currently have enough information about who is being housed, leading to an evidence gap around the impact of the affordable housing programme on issues such as tackling homelessness and the provision of wheelchair/accessible housing. As a sector, this is something that we should be pushing the Scottish Government to improve.
However, while progress towards the target is encouraging, we warned last week that there is ‘no room for complacency’, highlighting that it will take time to gear up to the new output levels for the remainder of the programme.
We must also ensure that as well as a focus on achieving the target in terms of units built, we don’t lose sight of the impact of the programme on social outcomes and wellbeing. When all is said and done, these will be the true measures of success.