Collaboration key to solving Scotland’s housing shortage

Pete Flockhart, head of housebuilding at Bank of Scotland. Picture: Fraser Band
Pete Flockhart, head of housebuilding at Bank of Scotland. Picture: Fraser Band
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As new MSPs arrive at Holyrood and a new Scottish Government takes shape over the coming weeks, all political parties will be engaged in setting the priorities for the new parliament.

One of the biggest challenges will be meeting our country’s housing needs. Scotland needs tens of thousands of new homes to meet rising demand, with a particular focus on increasing the number of affordable homes coming on to the market.

The shortage of affordable homes is driving up prices and making it difficult, in some cases impossible, for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

There are no simplistic, short-term “fixes” that will solve this. What is required is a sustained, long-term commitment to deliver the additional homes that Scotland needs over the next decade.

The Scottish Government set a welcome and ambitious target in the last administration – to build 50,000 affordable homes – and the sector must continue to be a priority over the next five years.

The number of firms building developments of 1 to 100 units has fallen over the last 25 years so it is important to get more building firms onto sites and increase housing supply. We need more companies like Springfield Properties who have grown from their roots in Moray, expanding across Scotland, to become a key player in the Scottish housebuilding sector.

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To help increase the number of small builders, Bank of Scotland, as part of Lloyds Banking Group, launched the Housing Growth Partnership, a £100 million fund where the UK government matched a £50m investment from Lloyds to help smaller builders invest in new projects. Its first Scottish transaction was announced last month.

AMA Homes secured a £3m equity investment to support the completion of a 34-unit townhouse and apartment development at Shandon Garden in central Edinburgh. In addition to ensuring communities get the homes they need, this investment will also boost jobs in the construction sector and other related industries.

It is also important we improve the mix of housing come onto the market. There is a need to develop a new professional renting sector (both private and social) that will provide a realistic long-term option for those who either do not want or cannot afford to buy a house.

There is also a requirement for more family homes in cities which are of both an acceptable standard and affordable. This push for additional housing must be accompanied by high-quality neighbourhoods that provide pleasant, safe, secure environments, served by good schools, transport and other services.

Countesswells, the new Stewart Milne project located west of Aberdeen, is one such community development. Backed by Bank of Scotland and the UK government, it will create 3,000 new homes over the next 15 years together with an exciting and sustainable new community.

Addressing Scotland’s housing shortage will transform communities across Scotland and we stand ready to play our part. By working with all key stakeholders and the rest of the public sector we can combine our efforts to ensure Scotland has the additional, affordable and high-quality housing it needs to prosper and grow.

• Pete Flockhart is regional relationship director and head of housebuilding at Bank of Scotland