Homes should come first in the priority list

Nearly one million Scots cannot afford adequate housing. Picture: Jane Barlow

Nearly one million Scots cannot afford adequate housing. Picture: Jane Barlow

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I WANT to see a Scotland in which everyone has access to a high-quality (that is a warm, dry and safe) affordable home. However, housing conditions and circumstances today for far too many people in Scotland remain totally unacceptable for a civilised society.

There are now 180,000 Scots on waiting lists and nearly one million who cannot afford adequate housing.

The £515 million of new housing investment allocated by the Scottish Government in the draft budget was a welcome development but we are unfortunately still a long way from meeting Scotland’s overwhelming demand for decent housing.

The social welfare of Scots – including housing – formed a crucial flashpoint in the independence debate, with both the Yes and No sides arguing that only their position could best safeguard Scotland’s future.

Now that the Smith Commission has started taking views on the devolution of further powers to Scotland, what prospect is there for building a housing system that works for everyone?

For the housing system to be workable it must be located within a tax, social security, and spending system which can deliver the ambition. The disappointment about the current situation is because these are not aligned as they should be.

Housing professionals have long called on the Scottish Government to make housing a priority, to keep rents affordable, to build new social rented housing, improve the quality of private renting, increase assistance for first time buyers and help tenants cope with the effects of welfare reform.

While some of this has been achieved, much work remains to be done.

We all need a home which is safe, secure and affordable. Those without this basic need are left at a huge disadvantage. Their poorer outcomes will have an even greater long-term cost, not just to the individual or family, but to our communities.

As we look to clarify what further powers we need in Scotland, it is time for strong leadership, imagination and focus to resolve our housing crisis. A safe, decent and affordable home is a basic requirement of a civilised society and one which everyone should strive for.

• Keith Anderson is chief executive of Port of Leith Housing Association

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