Neil McKay: New housing is not just about building homes

Adam and Tracey McIntyre and their two daughters are the first family to move into the Pennywell Living development, Scotlands largest ever housing-led regeneration project.
 
Picture: Rob McDougall

Adam and Tracey McIntyre and their two daughters are the first family to move into the Pennywell Living development, Scotlands largest ever housing-led regeneration project. Picture: Rob McDougall

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Scotland’s construction industry is beginning to heat up again with house building at the core of the recent upturn.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show a 1.8 per cent rise in ­construction output towards the end of 2016 due to an increase in new work becoming available – most of which has come from housing developments.

Whilst the provision of new homes is a key priority to address the housing shortage in Scotland, it’s important to think about the wider impact of developments and the responsibilities they have to the area in which they are rooted.

The idea of regeneration rather than isolated development is the approach at the heart of Urban Union’s operations. We believe that when building in any area of existing development there is a duty to adapt and help improve what will surround the new buildings.

For example, in all three of our locations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth we are working hand in hand with the local councils to build programmes that invest in the areas’ infrastructure and local people.

This investment takes a ­different form in each area but is typically focused on issues ­identified by local residents, such as the need for improved infrastructure and facilities.

This includes the development of bespoke arts strategies to help engage communities in activities that enhance the area and help create an inclusive living space. The proof that this approach is successful is shown by Pennywell’s success in winning the Regeneration prize at the 2016 Inside Housing Top 60 Awards, recognising Urban Union’s role in improving the natural ­environment in a way that has contributed to the viability of the area.

Not only should regeneration be considered a top priority for construction projects in Scotland, but so should the balance of private and affordable housing.

The latest figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), show that Scotland is leading the way in the UK in building affordable and social rented housing.

The SNP recently said a larger proportion of ­Scotland’s new home completions are affordable or social rented housing than in England, with 41 per cent of new home completions in Scotland made affordable, compared to only 16 per cent in England from 2015-16.

At Pennywell Living in Edinburgh there has been a major investment of £42 million by City of Edinburgh council, which includes £7.9 million grant funding from the Scottish Government. This money is helping to build 700 homes, 50 per cent of which are affordable, social housing and mid-market rent, with the remainder comprising private housing.

Striking this balance achieves Urban Union’s aim of supplying over and above the number of affordable homes set by government requirements while delivering modern, comfortable apartments, houses and townhouses for residents, along with communities ­people can take pride in.

Neil McKay is managing director of Urban Union, a joint venture company that regenerates urban areas across Scotland.

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