Mouthpiece: Housing crisis needs action

HOUSING is one of the top constituency postbag issues for our MPs and MSPs, yet it doesn't always top the political agenda like health, education and policing do.

In Scotland, we face a severe shortage of affordable housing and stand at a crossroads in terms of deciding how housing is funded and delivered.

The SFHA and most other housing associations agree that Scotland needs 10,000 new affordable homes for rent a year to meet demand. In Edinburgh, nearly 25,000 households are waiting for a home.

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Housing associations and co-operatives are at the forefront of providing affordable homes for those that need them – yet demand far exceeds supply. This has been recognised. Last year saw record investment in new-build affordable housing, with 675 million being spent and housing associations and co-operatives increasing their build rate by 70 per cent as 7,700 homes were built in total.

Housing associations already use a mixture of public and private finance to build new homes, but with less public money available, many local authorities face a reduction in affordable housing budgets of about 40 per cent. Edinburgh's budget has dropped from 46.5m in 2009-10 to 36.1m. There were 676 homes approved in the Capital last year; this year's target is 465.

Housing policy is influenced by actions at all levels of government and that's why the SFHA is holding a hustings in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Next month will see the introduction of a Green Paper on housing, which will try to find a new ways of providing the extra homes that we need.

The SFHA will be working to shape this debate and allow a range of opinions to be heard.

Andrew Field is acting chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. He is speaking at Holyrood's Housing 2010 conference at the Grosvenor Hotel, Edinburgh, on Tuesday.

The SFHA's housing hustings is on Thursday at 7pm, at Out of the Blue, on Dalmeny Road.