18 Mar 2022

Scotland's housing land

The pandemic has taught us the importance of having a safe, affordable place to call home. With market trends in Scotland pointing to significant housing pressures, what can we do to improve access to affordable housing in the short to medium-term?

At the heart of the issue is the supply of new homes and enough land to build the homes that Scotland needs. Historically, we have failed to meet the demand that exists, which has increased prices to rent and buy, making it increasingly unaffordable for people to have a home of their own.

So what can be done to help the 120,000 households on housing waiting lists and give families the chance to live in homes desperately needed across the country?

The Scottish Government has set out its new plans for identifying Scotland’s Minimum All-Tenure Housing Land Requirement (MATHLR) as part of the new National Planning Framework (NPF4). The consultation is ongoing, but the proposal sets out that all planning authorities identify in advance all the land they need to meet their area’s housing needs over the next ten years. This is a good start. We need to be able to plan for house building over the long term, outwith political election cycles, and a 10-year housing land supply will help us institutionalise the reforms we need to deliver a ten year, all tenure housing plan.

But identifying housing land is only the first part of the problem. We also need to see land identification matched with the appropriate infrastructure changes, not just energy, sewerage and roads - which are all vital. But also community infrastructure such as parks, shops, schools, services, protecting the natural environment, and the things that turn a home into part of a vibrant community.

And then, we need to help planning authorities realise the connection between these national strategic plans and their local priorities. This means creating a structure of oversight and support through NPF4 that helps planning authorities address the housing crisis quickly.

None of this is easy, and it will require front-loading of infrastructure investment from the Scottish Government alongside a recognition that more money is required to build the homes Scotland needs. This includes an uprating of investment received by social landlords to deliver the 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 that the Government has promised.

However, by making these changes, by setting out a positive plan for new development and building homes, we will see the money provided by the Scottish Government matched by councils and housing associations and, in turn, the private sector, demonstrating the sector’s role as a catalyst for public-private collaboration.

We know the benefits house building brings to families, communities and the economy. By developing an effective plan for housing land, housing infrastructure and housing supply, NPF4 - with milestones, budgetary considerations and outcomes - can help drive the pace we need to see in Scotland’s home building programme. But only if we get these details right.

Written by Callum Chomczuk

Callum is the national director of CIH Scotland.