NEW NATIONAL POLICY DIRECTION AND PRIORITIES
14. New-style local housing strategies are part of a broader package of policy changes included within Firm Foundations and the consultative draft Scottish Planning Policy 3: Planning for Housing ( SPP3) 4, which aim to support achievement of an increase in housing supply across all tenures. As a result local housing strategies are to assume a stronger strategic role than is the case at present and will be central to local authorities' corporate planning activities.
15. The Scottish Government undertook a major consultation on the future of housing in Scotland through the discussion document Firm Foundations. This introduced a new emphasis on increasing housing supply across all tenures, and recognises the importance of higher environmental and design standards, affordability for those on low incomes, the creation of sustainable mixed communities and value for public expenditure. It is the Scottish Government's and COSLA's joint priority to increase housing supply across all tenures.
16. Other key policy areas which will impact on a local housing strategy are the new statutory requirements set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 on private sector house conditions, a stronger focus on the role of the private rented sector in meeting housing need and demand, a commitment to achieving sustainable mixed communities and the challenge of climate change.
17. Firm Foundations set out a clear expectation that local authorities should play a greater strategic role in shaping the housing systems in their areas through their local housing strategies. Central and local government have agreed that local housing strategies are at the heart of the new arrangements, both through their links to development plans, as set out in the consultative draft of SPP3 published in January 2008 and in terms of their influence on the direction of local housing investment.
18. An important part of the approach to increasing housing supply to at least 35,000 per year by the middle of the next decade will be co-operation between local authorities at a regional level to set realistic housing supply targets in their local housing strategies and then - through the planning system - allocating sufficient available land to deliver the required number of houses. The public sector as a whole will play an important part in bringing land forward for development.
19. As a key part of a reformed delivery framework for a step change in housing supply, local housing strategies are expected to view the housing system as a whole and deal with the requirements for housing across all tenures. This requires a broader and more strategic housing role, integrated with modernised development planning that can only be achieved in many parts of the country through collaboration across local authority boundaries.
20. While joint approaches in some parts of the country are well developed, greater co-operation on housing provision will be important to achieving the delivery of the housing supply increase which is needed. Local authorities are encouraged to explore new and enhanced ways of joint working within wider housing market areas.
Scottish Planning Policy 3: Planning for Housing, Consultative Draft
21. The revised SPP3 will strengthen the link between assessed housing need and demand, local housing strategies and development planning. Housing need and demand assessments provide a key part of the evidence base upon which housing supply targets are defined in the local housing strategy and land release decisions are made within the development plan process. This will ensure the integration of local housing strategies and development plans and will depend upon close working between local authority housing and planning teams.
Housing need and demand assessments
22. Housing need and demand assessments will form a critical part of the evidence base for the local housing strategy and development plan framework. In line with the Government's new guidance 5 these assessments are to be undertaken at functional housing market level 6 and will provide a much clearer understanding of the operation of the housing system as a whole. It is for local authorities to define the boundaries of housing market areas, following one of the range of approaches referenced in the housing need and demand assessment guidance. On the basis of identified housing market areas constituent local authorities will be encouraged to set up housing market partnerships. These partnerships will play an important role in bringing together local authorities across housing market areas to undertake housing need and demand assessments and to agree housing supply targets for inclusion in local housing strategies.
23. While it is recognised that housing market areas are not evident across all of Scotland, particularly in some rural areas, guidance on housing need and demand assessment is still relevant and will help partnerships take a strategic view of housing requirements and inform housing land allocations in development plans.
Private sector housing
24. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 has two main aims: to improve the condition of privately owned homes and to raise standards in the private rented sector through, for example, the Repairing Standard and new provisions for the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation ( HMOs).
25. The policy vision of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 is that:
- There will be a cultural change in attitudes to housing quality in the private housing sector;
- Local authorities will lead a marked improvement in the quality of private housing in their areas, benefiting owners and the communities they live in;
- The Scottish Government will support and facilitate their work;
- Private owners will become more aware of repair and maintenance responsibilities and more proactive in carrying them out;
- Private owners will invest more to ensure their homes have a sustainable future; and
- Public money will support owners' repairs and maintenance only where this is strictly necessary.
26. As has been stated previously, the local housing strategy covers all sectors, but the requirements in section 10 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 reinforce its application to the private sector 7. It is now a statutory requirement for the local housing strategy to show how the local authority's policies on enforcement and assistance will improve private housing conditions. This needs to be built around a clear understanding of the scale and nature of local housing quality problems.
Private Rented Sector
27. Where appropriate a local authority may decide to plan how best to meet the increasing demand for private rented accommodation from a wide range of tenants with different needs ( e.g. those on low incomes, students, migrant workers, young professionals, families, etc.) and to provide advice and support to these tenants where it is needed. Firm Foundations proposed that local authorities continue to work in partnership with private landlords and letting agents to help meet housing need and to improve standards in the sector.
28. The Government is currently taking forward a review of the private rented sector to examine ways in which it can contribute more fully to meeting housing need. Further details on this work, such as supply options to help meet housing need and information on best practice in engaging with the sector, will be provided as the review progresses. Outputs from the review are expected later in 2008.
29. The local housing strategy should consider addressing increasing demand for private rented sector accommodation from a wide range of tenants, and in particular consider the role of HMOs.
Sustainable mixed communities
30. Local authorities may decide in planning to meet housing need to take account of the principles of creating mixed communities as a means of guarding the sustainability of their stock and preventing concentrations of deprivation. This could include for example seeking to diversify tenures and stock type to encourage the delivery of social rented, affordable and private housing within the same development, as well as housing that will appeal to a mixture of families, first time buyers, and the senior community.
The challenge of climate change
31. A significant proportion of all carbon emissions in Scotland derives from houses, therefore measures to improve domestic energy efficiency in both new and existing stock will be crucial to meeting climate change objectives, as well as making houses more comfortable, cheaper to heat and helping to tackle fuel poverty. In order to respond to these challenges, local housing strategies may want to consider the issue of climate change and examine the links with related policies, such as planning, improving household energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty.