Homes Fit for the 21st Century: The Scottish Government's Strategy and Action Plan for Housing in the Next Decade: 2011-2020

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Introduction - Our 2020 vision and strategic approach

1 This document sets out the Scottish Government's housing vision and strategy for the decade to 2020.

2 Housing is a key part of our physical, economic, and social fabric. Getting housing "right" would contribute to our Purpose of sustainable economic growth to enable all of Scotland to flourish. It would also help us achieve the country's full potential through better educational and employment opportunities, healthier lives and a more prosperous and equal society. 1 Accessible, affordable housing and attractive local environments can contribute significantly to our wider aims to tackle poverty and health inequalities and to build confidence and capacity in communities. High quality housing and its surrounding environment helps to give our children the best start in life - for example through play areas where they can develop social skills and improve physical health.

3 For 2020, our vision is for a housing system which provides an affordable home for all. To achieve this we will need a strong recovery in the construction sector and a substantial increase in the number of homes of all types, including housing to meet the needs of disabled people and older people for independent living. We also need to see improvements in the quality of our homes, so that everyone has a warm and comfortable home, whether they own it, part own it, rent it privately, or rent from a social landlord.

4 Equally, the system must cater for the variety of needs and demands, offering different tenures and flexible transitions between tenures, helping to enhance economic growth and social mobility, as well as strengthening our communities.

5 Over the decade to 2020, we intend to achieve the four major housing-related targets set by the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Government:

  • by December 2012, all unintentionally homeless households will be entitled to settled accommodation;
  • by April 2015, all social landlords must ensure that all their dwellings pass all elements of the Scottish Housing Quality Standard;
  • by November 2016, so far as is reasonably practicable, nobody will be living in fuel poverty in Scotland; and
  • by December 2020, improved design and greater energy efficiency in housing will have made a contribution to Scotland's commitments to reduce our energy consumption by 12% and our greenhouse gas emissions by 42%.

6 These are challenging objectives given the context of:

  • a sharp decline in housing construction that has been felt not only here in Scotland, but across the UK, Europe and North America, and is diminishing the medium-term capacity of the construction sector;
  • more restrictive financing of the private housing market, in particular a structural decline in mortgage availability;
  • the projected growth and ageing of the population of Scotland, and reduction in the average size of each household;
  • the prospect of sustained cuts to the availability of public funding, imposed on Scotland by the UK Government; and
  • current and projected increases in energy prices, which place more people at risk of fuel poverty.

The extent and impact of the first four of these factors was considered in a recent publication by the Scottish Government Communities Analytical Services, entitled The Scottish housing system: selected economic and social trends2.

7 On the other hand, the next ten years will also present opportunities. Through better design and the adoption of new technologies, we can reduce the cost of housing and improve quality. There will also be expansion of the green industries, which can reduce unemployment and benefit the wider economy. In addition, there will be greater devolution of powers to Scotland, in particular borrowing powers, which could fund new investment vehicles.

8 In May 2010 we published Housing: Fresh Thinking, New Ideas3, to launch a national housing discussion over the subsequent months. Many organisations and individuals took part in meetings and seminars, made their views known through the discussion website, or sent in written submissions. 4 All contributions, written or otherwise, have helped to shape the content of this new strategy for housing and we are very grateful to everyone who took the time to take part. A number of quotes from the discussion are included in this policy paper, but responsibility for the strategy rests with the Scottish Government.

The discussion paper has succeeded in provoking a debate within the sector about the key issues.
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

9 The discussion showed a willingness to share ideas and best practice, and a recognition of the need to innovate. If we are to increase housing supply, ensure affordability, provide choice, and improve the places and houses we live in, then we need to continue to pool and stretch our ideas and resources. We see a key role for national representative bodies and organisations, and also for the Scottish Government, to continue this sharing of good practice, and the development of new approaches.

Our strategic approach

10 Given the scale of the challenges, we believe a more radical approach now needs to be adopted for the future of Scottish housing. Our overall strategic approach will therefore incorporate the following essential elements:

We recognise the vital role of social housing in providing people with an affordable home and a platform for getting on in life; we oppose UK reforms to Housing Benefit and the tenancy system, which will undermine work incentives.

We also recognise the need for Government support for the growing number of people priced out of home ownership, struggling to afford market rents but unable to access social housing.

We will support home ownership in a balanced and sustainable way, including the growth of innovative products such as shared equity and rent-to-buy.

We will make a decisive change in the way we support new developments, using Government funding to lever in the maximum possible investment from other sources. We will support local innovation by encouraging a wide range of pilots to address supply and other challenges.

We will continue the drive for new sources of finance and innovative financial solutions to help build affordable homes for less, including leverage models such as the National Housing Trust.

We will supplement new supply by making better use of existing homes, limiting the right-to-buy, and increasing the use of empty or under-occupied homes.

We will instigate a wholly new approach to managing housing need by providing a range of housing options for families and individuals across all tenures, and ensuring that people get regular, up-to-date information about their options through "housing health checks".

We will remove unnecessary barriers to investment and will empower local communities and housing organisations to find solutions that meet local needs.

We will develop a Strategy for Sustainable Housing in Scotland to put people at the heart of how we create sustainable communities for the long-term and meet our climate change targets.

We will promote excellence in the design of new housing which contributes to the creation of sustainable places and neighbourhoods which are low carbon and energy efficient, and provide a safe and stimulating environment for young people to grow up in.

We will promote energy efficiency across all tenures, working with partners to boost the green industries in Scotland, and looking to the housing and construction industries to make full use of leading edge technologies.

11 Our detailed action plan is set out in the two parts of this strategy:

  • Part 1 sets out ways in which the effective supply of housing across all tenures can be increased; and
  • Part 2 sets out the actions we will take to promote flexibility and choice within the housing system, and a range of measures to improve our houses and neighbourhoods, in particular to make them more sustainable.