Need for housing innovation and disruption
Fiona Clandillon, associate director of the Scottish Futures Trust discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic and an overdue reflection on the impact of structural racism and inequality has changed the perspective of many.
If we keep doing the same thing, we will get the same results. That’s alright if you are content with the results. Repetition is a comfortable groove to find yourself in. But what if your perspective changes and you see what you are doing is no longer good enough? That is when space has to be made for disruption and innovation.
Looking back, it is hard to feel that past housing developments are good enough, when you are alert to how patterns of investment - in housing, services and infrastructure - embed and reinforce inequality and discrimination in Scotland. Poor housing and living environments have had dire consequences for the health of those in poverty.
Looking ahead, it is also hard to see how we can continue to develop homes and communities in the same way. In Scotland housing need across all tenures remains acute and the housing needs of older people seem particularly neglected. Affordable housing, crucial to inclusive growth, is remains difficult to deliver as costs rise and land remains scarce and expensive. Vacant and derelict land continues to scar the landscape. On the near horizon are likely rises in unemployment, deepening poverty and inequality and more people struggling afford a decent, secure home.
Our past failures and this future uncertainty are powerful drivers for innovation and disruption. We cannot respond adequately to these challenges unless we allow ourselves to rethink how and where we invest in housing.
The Housing and Development team at the Scottish Futures Trust are fortunate to have a remit to innovate. We work with public sector partners to develop and implement new ideas in housing delivery. The space we innovate in has typically been around making new tenures, such as Mid-Market Rent, work in the Scottish context or unlocking strategic sites using our knowledge of public and private finance and infrastructure.
In addition to this work, we are seeking to meet the challenges of developing an inclusive green economy in Scotland through a renewed focus on place-based solutions that go beyond the boundary of a housing site and take in the wider needs of a community and local partners. Housing sites can deliver more than just a home, if we ask the right questions at the right time.
We are encouraging a debate around who delivers homes in Scotland. We think Scottish local authorities could take a greater role in the housing market by building homes for sale or for market rent. This could deliver new, high quality homes where the private sector is no longer active. These are often areas that are experiencing de-population. This could also help address vacant and derelict sites particularly in urban areas.
This is only part of the solution. However, if we want to deliver more resilient communities that will allow more people to flourish, all partners in development need to consider new ways of doing things.