Political ambition on housing gratifying but words alone are not enough - Nicola Barclay

With the importance of ensuring everyone living in Scotland has a quality home that meets their needs never more apparent, I have been gratified to see the ambition shown by all parties on housing during this election campaign.

Nicola Barclay, Chief Executive , Homes for Scotland www.homesforscotland.com

This was reaffirmed by the recent home building hustings Homes for Scotland held for our members which culminated in me getting clear agreement from the SNP’s Kevin Stewart, Scottish Labour’s Pauline McNeill, Scottish Conservative Alexander Stewart and the Scottish Greens’ Ariane Burgess to support our cross-sector delivery target of at least 25,000 new homes per annum.

But words alone are not enough.

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Having always promoted a tenure-neutral approach, I strongly believe that the housing sector has to be considered as a whole system in light of the many interdependencies which exist. It is not within the gift of any one part of the system to deliver the homes we all need. We must work together, as landowners, developers, regulators, communities and funders. With everyone wanting something slightly different out of the system, this is no mean feat. These interdependencies, and subsequent difficult conversations that arise will become even more important as we seek to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and move towards a net-zero development environment.

It is in this context that we will be engaging with MSPs during the next parliamentary session, making clear the need for everyone to pull in the same direction and focus on where we are trying to get to. Without clarity of purpose, we will fail. The verbal cross-party housing ambition that I witnessed at our hustings must translate into supportive and decisive action in the next parliamentary term.

With the Housing to 2040 vision just published, National Planning Framework 4 being developed and policy on how to tackle the climate emergency clearly setting out the role of this sector, the next few years will be crucial to all of us involved in housing delivery. The implications for those who want to and need to access the full range of new homes that our members can provide cannot be ignored. We have too many of our young people stuck in unsuitable housing, unable to afford their own home. This is stifling life opportunities, the creation of new families and storing up problems for the future.

The process of delivering much-needed housing is extremely complex and challenging. There are so many different elements that need to be brought together and the premise is very simple: no piece can be missing if Scotland’s housing objectives are to be achieved.

It is therefore imperative that our politicians understand that housing delivery is about so much more than funding support for first-time buyers (as important as that is). It is also about ensuring a smoother journey through the planning and wider consenting system; providing the crucial supporting infrastructure like roads, rail and schools; valuing the contribution made by new housing delivery, both socially and economically; and enabling access to the whole range of housing choices that are required to meet the housing needs and desires of all those living in Scotland – at each point in our lives.

This requires the focusing of minds and the active encouragement by government to the development industry that our services are wanted, needed and will be actively supported.

Everyone has a role to play to make sure we have the homes our people need. Let’s move beyond the words and seize this fresh opportunity to accomplish that.

Nicola Barclay, Chief Executive , Homes for Scotland www.homesforscotland.com

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