Graeme Brown: We need a policy of 'build, protect, refurbish'

There are two main pressures on housing in Edinburgh and across Scotland: affordability and availability.

Let's deal with availability first. More than 500,000 affordable homes to rent have been lost to the right to buy (RTB) scheme over the past 30 years - 100,000 of those in the last decade with only 42,321 being built. So, not enough new homes have been built to replace the stock lost to RTB, let alone meet the growing demand from a changing and increasingly elderly population.

The fact Edinburgh Council is just beginning its first council house building programme in 30 years speaks to the crisis.

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Second, let's look at affordability. Cuts in housing benefits make social housing even more unaffordable while public sector job cuts will lead to increased demand for it. How do we solve the problem? Adopt a simple mantra - build, protect, refurbish. Build more homes, further reform RTB to protect existing housing stock and refurbish empty homes.

Disastrously, though, in his draft budget, the finance secretary announced what was effectively a 35 per cent cut in the housing budget.

Instead, why not defer capital projects like the new Forth Replacement Crossing? The cost of 2.34 billion would provide around 78,000 new homes for 250,000 people at a time when 160,000 households are on council waiting lists.

So, the Scottish Parliament needs to put pressure on the Scottish Government to change its mind and invest in a national house building programme.

The Scottish Government needs to bring housing in from the cold.

• Graeme Brown is director of housing charity Shelter Scotland.