Homes for Scotland

Developers prevented from building new homes due to lack of capital school funding

Much-needed new homes are being held up in the planning system because local authorities are increasing the expectations on developers to deliver infrastructure solutions such as new local schools, according to Homes for Scotland.

In evidence provided to the Scottish Parliament’s education & skills committee before last week’s Budget announcement, the house building trade body urged the Scottish Government to explore different models for funding the development of schools to allow its members to deliver the homes that Scotland needs.

Interim director of policy, David Ogilvie, said Homes for Scotland is “acutely aware” of the scale of housing challenge currently facing Scotland and that its member companies “are committed to working closely with the Scottish Government to tackle the country’s under-supply of housing and help it to achieve its ambition of improving opportunity for all”.

But he added that a ‘joined up’ approach to housing is “clearly required” if the many positives new housing delivers are to be fully maximised and emphasised the need for a discrete capital funding stream for the development of new schools and associated infrastructure.

Submitting the evidence, Mr Ogilvie said: “Our members are becoming increasingly mired in intractable negotiations with planning authorities over the extent of planning gain expected from new home developments in their area. While our members are perfectly content to deliver new affordable homes in the local area, or to contribute towards the provision of additional schools capacity in a locality, the fact is that the scale of planning gain expected in some parts of Scotland is so great, or the timing expectations for delivering infrastructure solutions are such, that it is impacting negatively on development viability.

“The consequence is that much-needed new homes are being held up in the system because of an entirely avoidable Catch 22 scenario. We do not believe that home builders should be expected to bear the full burden of funding or front-funding new schools infrastructure via Section 75 contributions.

“While we will continue to work tirelessly with the Scottish Government to meet the housing needs of Scotland’s people, we would highlight that the home building industry is not solely responsible for Scotland’s population growth or the demographic change which is driving the need for more homes and therefore more school places.

“We would therefore wish to see Scottish Government bringing forward in the Scottish Budget 2018-19 a discrete budget heading designed to overcome the shortfall in capital funding for schools, which will unlock numerous sites across Scotland and allow us to ensure the delivery of new homes. This funding will either help get projects moving through the provision of the full upfront capital needed to deliver an education solution in an area (that can then be paid back in part at least through appropriate developer contributions) or the funding will bridge the gap between what the development impact is assessed as being and the wider education needs that also require to be addressed.”

Budget: £4 billion allocated for Scottish infrastructure

Derek Mackay

An allocation of over £4 billion of funding for infrastructure which includes a £756 million contribution to the Scottish Government’s target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by 2021 were amongst a range of investment plans set out in the 2018-19 Draft Budget by finance secretary Derek Mackay.

The infrastructure investment, which is in line with the Programme for Government commitment to invest £20bn over the life of this parliament, also includes beginning the procurement of Scotland’s £600m universal superfast broadband programme to be delivered over the next four years; investing £60m in Low Carbon Innovation Fund to deliver innovative low carbon energy infrastructure solutions including for electric vehicles and investing £1.2bn in transport infrastructure, including key road projects and further electrification of the rail network.

Publishing the Draft Budget to parliament yesterday, Mr Mackay set out a programme that will also:

  • Deliver the first £70m of a new £150m Building Scotland Fund to unlock new house building, develop new low carbon commercial property and support research and development
  • Set aside £340m for initial capitalisation of the Scottish National Investment Bank
  • Drive regional economic growth by more than doubling investment in city region deals.
  • Deliver £18m as part of a £65m package of investment for the National Manufacturing Institute to make Scotland a global leader in advanced manufacturing

Responding to the announcement, David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “We welcome the creation of the Building Scotland Fund to support innovation in both housing and commercial property development as well as the capitalisation of the Scottish National Investment Bank.  Access to finance remains challenging in a severely risk-averse environment for developers looking to innovate with real estate projects and with the economy set for subdued growth in the next few years, the real estate sector can act as a positive driver of growth that will support jobs and investment in places to work, live and relax.

“The decision to use CPI as the measure of inflation rather than RPI is welcome but we believe that Scottish Ministers should not become tied to increasing business rates by this measure annually as was once the case with the RPI measure.  The economy is growing but only just and we feel that the freedom to increase rates by less than CPI should be considered in future budgets if the economy continues to struggle.

“New commercial development, or redevelopment has the potential to increase and to boost the economy and enhance the tax base.  The confirmation of the support for new build is welcome though we remain concerned that the potential restriction of listed building rate relief will deter the regeneration of listed buildings for business purposes.  This could have significant implications for struggling town centres and clear guidance to local authorities on restricting rate relief will be important.”

The country’s home builders said the Budget recognises economic importance of housing investment.

Chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland, Nicola Barclay, said: “With home building in Scotland supporting over 60,000 jobs and contributing billions each year to the economy, we are pleased to see the Scottish Government confirming its ambition for the housing of all types our country needs.

“As well as a significant funding increase for affordable housing, the additional funding for skills bodies, colleges and universities that will help to plug the skills gap, is also welcome.

“The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax relief for First Time Buyers up to the first £175,000 of the purchase price could be a valuable boost for those aspiring to get on the property ladder, representing additional money towards their deposit or moving costs. However, given that this is not due to become effective until 2018/19, we are concerned that any delay may have a potential impact on purchasing decisions in the short term.

“Of particular note, however, is the establishment of the new £150m Building Scotland Fund which will have a prominent housing and infrastructure focus to support interventions that will further accelerate and scale up housing delivery. With the funding and delivery of infrastructure a major housing blocker, we keenly await further details in the new year.”

The Scottish Budget also followed Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s lead with a tax break for first-time buyers.

Under the plans, first-time buyers will be given a helping hand with a new land and business transaction tax (LBTT) relief for properties worth up to £175,000. As many as 80% of first-time buyers will now be exempt from paying any of the tax when buying a new home.

The move comes after Chancellor Philip Hammond exempted first time buyers from stamp duty – the equivalent tax in England – for homes up to the value of £300,000. Scottish ministers say lower house prices in Scotland means £175,000 is a roughly comparable figure north of the Border. Mr Mackay said the move will “make home ownership a reality for more of our young people.”

But the move does not go far enough according industry body the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland (RICS Scotland).

Hew Edgar, RICS policy manager for Scotland, said: “Whilst this change has the potential to stimulate activity in the short term, it comes at a time when the market is subdued, and does not tackle the overarching problem of housing shortage supply across all tenures. This government must realise that prioritising demand side measures is not conducive to market fluidity and will do little to solve the chronic shortage of suitable accommodation across Scotland’s housing options.”

He added: “Once again, we call on Scottish Government to review the current LBTT as a priority going forward as this current framework is not only limiting market activity, but could ultimately bring the market to a standstill. That said, we hope that the ‘Building Scotland’ fund will provide the required support for alternative models of housing delivery.

“On a more positive note, the £600m investment in providing superfast broadband – ensuring the last 5% of Scotland’s ‘non-spot’ dwellings – will be connected to the fourth utility by 2021, will be greatly received.

“As part of £4bn investment in this budget – £1.2bn of which will be directed towards transport – tackling the infrastructure deficit is always welcome. But Mackay held back and gave little away as to where the funding will be directed. He also missed an opportunity to attract and retain top talent to Scotland by not building on Scotland’s infrastructure success of the Queensferry Crossing, with no addition of noteworthy projects to the infrastructure pipeline.”

Innes Smith, chief executive at Springfield Properties, said the announcement was “a positive step forward” for the housebuilding industry in Scotland and for people who need homes.

He added: “With its progressive outlook, the Scottish Government remains determined to improve the housing situation across Scotland. A greater proportion of first-time buyers will be exempt from paying LBTT, making buying a first home more attainable. We are pleased to see the ongoing commitment to funding affordable housing and the large investments in infrastructure and superfast broadband which support the development of new housing.

“We are confident today’s news on LBTT, the Scottish Government’s £756m commitment to affordable housing and funding for further action on homelessness represents real action for those in need.”

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “The Scottish Government’s continued commitment to renewable energy is of course to be welcomed, particularly as its final Energy Strategy will be published within days.

“It is encouraging that the Government recognises renewable energy as a key driver of Scotland’s economy.

“Of note are the funds allocated to support both low-carbon innovation and the decarbonisation of the heat sector – a task which is of critical importance if we are to tackle climate change.

“We also welcome the reaffirmation of the Government’s intention to follow the suggestions contained in the Barclay Review of business rates and to link increases to the Consumer Prices Index, both of which will benefit new and existing green energy generators. We are pleased that Scottish Renewables’ recommendations on these points have been heeded.

“We will continue to work to understand the full implications of the detail contained in the Budget document for our members and look forward to working with the Scottish Government as the measures outlined in the Budget and upcoming Energy Strategy are implemented.”

Operational delivery ‘key to return on investment’ for Build to Rent in Scotland

A build to rent project is underway at Edinburgh's Fountainbridge

A build to rent project is underway at Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge

Investors into Scotland’s Build to Rent (BTR) sector have been urged to ensure that schemes have operational management factored in from the earliest stages of development.

A new report from residential property management company FirstPort is based on a roundtable meeting involving some of Scotland’s major players in industry and representatives of government.

With significant government backing, the hope is that BTR will attract £500 million of investment and deliver 2,500 private rental homes by 2020 to help address the housing shortage in Scotland.

But, according to Build to Rent in Scotland: Getting it right, across the UK the BTR sector has so far faced challenges establishing itself as a significant element of the housing market.

FirstPort business development manager, Jeremy Ogborne, said: “Build to Rent in Scotland: Getting it right addresses some of the barriers that have slowed investment and delivery in the BTR sector.  The report argues that securing the confidence of investors, of government, and of customers, is key, and that ensuring how the building will operate and serve its local market should be planned in from the beginning.

“The key message is that, in the end, the quality of operational delivery will define a development and the customer experience. In the everyday life of a development it is going to make the difference between efficient and high-quality amenities versus amenities which are disused or deteriorating; the difference between a vibrant community in which residents feel they belong, versus one with dissatisfied, disengaged customers.

“Operational delivery is absolutely key to providing a healthy return on investment for the long-term, reducing customer churn, and maintaining a premium look and feel.

“If a development treats this as an afterthought then it is going to struggle to remain viable, as some BTR developments currently are. There are very few managing agents in the market with the scale necessary to perform this role.

“Now the Scottish Government is calling on the sector to deliver, and with operational expertise, management information and an experienced, skilled workforce all factored in from day one, it can do so.”

Build to Rent in Scotland: Getting it right includes input from Homes for Scotland, Pinsent Masons LLP, the Scottish Futures Trust, the Scottish Property Federation, Montagu Evans, the EDI Group and representatives of the Scottish Government.

Help to Buy disproportionately helping larger housebuilders, analysis reveals

Building Professional Employee Builder Worker stockCritics of the Scottish Help to Buy scheme have called for the policy to be scrapped after an investigation revealed just three high volume housebuilders have received around £189 million in subsidised mortgages between them.

Freedom of information (FOI) data obtained by investigatory journalism platform The Ferret has shown that Persimmon Homes, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt have been the largest beneficiaries of Help to Buy since its inception, selling thousands of homes and building nearly half of the homes under the scheme.

The Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme allows people to purchase a new-build home without the need for a large deposit. It enables the Scottish Government to subsidise the cost of home-buyers’ mortgages with prospective buyers getting up to 15% of the purchase price of a new home.

According to The Ferret, York-based Persimmon Homes has benefited most from the scheme. It has sold 2,308 homes via Help to Buy – accounting for nearly one fifth of all the homes sold through the Scottish programme.

Based on the average equity stake per home provided by the Scottish Government, The Ferret estimates that the Scottish Government has put around £77.4m into the purchase of Persimmon built homes.

London-based Taylor Wimpey has received an estimated £57m worth of mortgage support, while BDW Trading, which is part of Leicester-based Barratt Homes, has benefited from around £54.8m worth of subsidised loans.

Courtesy of The Ferret

Courtesy of The Ferret

In early 2016, the Scottish Government announced it would ring-fence one third of its Help to Buy funding for smaller developers.

But the figures show that in the 2016 – 2017 financial year, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barrat built 52% of the homes supported by the scheme. So far in the current financial year, these three firms have accounted for 50% of the 1,264 homes which received Scottish Government subsidy.

Green MSP Andy Wightman, who also chairs the cross-party group on housing at the Scottish Parliament, urged the Scottish Government to end the scheme in the next budget, claiming it makes housing more expensive for everyone else by pushing up prices generally and does little to benefit those on low incomes.

He told The Ferret: “For too long now, boosting profits for senior management and shareholders has taken precedent over delivering homes that can properly be called affordable. Housing policy should focus on the supply side rather than demand.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said that the money would be better spent on supporting affordable housing for social rent.

“Help to Buy is not the right way of addressing the housing crisis. It adds public money into the market rather than lowering prices for everyone,” he added.

Directing resources to increasing the supply of affordable housing for social rent, he argued, “would reduce the threat of homelessness to many people who are currently struggling to keep a roof over the heads due to a combination of high rent, stagnant wages and welfare reform”.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, emphasised to The Ferret that taxpayers were likely to get their money back over the long term, and could even profit, provided house prices rise, as the loans were repaid.

She said: “With housing completions still 36% down on pre-recession levels, Help to Buy has played a hugely important role in sustaining the construction of new homes, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and contributing £1bn in Gross Value Added to the wider economy since launch.”

The Scottish Government announced last year that Help to Buy enabed more than 30 households a week to purchase a new build home

The Scottish Government announced last year that Help to Buy enabed more than 30 households a week to purchase a new build home

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said that the Scottish Government was investing £3bn in building 50,000 affordable homes and that the Help To Buy scheme was in addition to this.

He told The Ferret: “We are committed to help struggling buyers purchase their own home through our shared equity schemes.

“Over 10,000 households have benefited from our Help to Buy programme since its introduction – two thirds of these were first time buyers and three quarters were aged 35 or under. The evidence also shows the scheme has had success in helping people move from social housing and from waiting lists into sustainable home ownership.

“Shared equity support is provided directly to buyers and builders receive no support from the Scottish Government. Help to Buy is led by demand from buyers and the Scottish Government has no control over the number of developments made available by each builder or where these developments are located.”

Responding to the report, the Common Weal think-tank has went further and challenged the Scottish Government to “answer a number of questions about its closeness to the property developer lobby in Scotland”.

Other revelations in The Ferret included evidence that the Scottish Government has asked industry representatives to come up with evidence that will justify continuing the subsidy scheme.

The FoI’s also show that Homes for Scotland (HfS) rejected the idea of a small developers fund to replace the current Help to Buy scheme.

Commenting on the findings, Common Weal head of policy, Ben Wray, stated: “These revelations open up serious questions about just how closely the Scottish Government and the property developer lobby are when it comes to designing housing policy.

“It’s perfectly reasonable that Homes for Scotland is listened to, but the Scottish Government appear to be reliant on the lobbyist for evidence to justify policy which its most wealthy members benefit from directly. The fact that HfS are direct partners in devising the new build-to-rent subsidy raises further alarm bells about the closeness of this relationship.

“The Ferret FoI revelations also show that HfS has specifically rejected a small housebuilder fund to replace the current help-to-buy, which the evidence shows is a cash cow for a few big corporate developers. HfS do not represent all opinion on housebuilding and all housebuilders in Scotland, and the Scottish Government would do well to remember this.

“Common Weal will be watching the Budget closely next week to see if subsidies for big corporate property developers are maintained, or if full funding commitment is put into building public rental housing.”

Nicola Barclay has since taken to Twitter to clarify that Homes for Scotland represents all developers and “supports an all tenure approach to give everyone the chance of a home”.

Builders vow to ensure Scots not left behind following Budget for housing

Building Professional Employee Builder Worker stockWith the Chancellor yesterday announcing a raft of measures aimed at significantly increasing levels of home building and “reviving the British dream of home ownership”, Scotland’s home building industry vowed to continue to hold the Scottish Government to account to ensure those living north of the border were not left behind.

Key amongst the Chancellor’s statements were the abolition of Stamp Duty Land Tax on homes under £300k for First Time Buyers, £15.3 billion of new financial support for house building over the next five years (which includes money for the government to buy land as well as delivering supporting infrastructure) and more money to help SME builders.

This is in addition to the £10bn extra funding already announced for the English version of the Help to Buy shared equity scheme.

Chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, Nicola Barclay, said: “The Chancellor correctly identifies that not only have successive governments, over decades, simply failed to build enough homes to enable people’s home ownership aspirations to be achieved, solving the housing challenge also requires money, planning reform and intervention.

“The case is similar in Scotland, where we also face the same barriers that have resulted in the number of new homes being built each year flatlining at levels still 36% below the pre-recession levels of 2007. If we are going to effectively tackle Scotland’s chronic undersupply of housing and address affordability, it is imperative that we have an all-tenure target that identifies the large number of homes that are required. This would focus all our minds on ensuring that the system is geared up to enable all parties to deliver the homes needed.

“With Homes for Scotland and its member companies standing ready to work with Ministers and officials to make this happen, we will be watching the Scottish budget closely to ensure that any consequentials received from the housing announcements are similarly allocated, particularly in relation to unblocking the infrastructure constraints that impact those developers who are trying to build new communities.”

Barclay also considered the Chancellor’s review into the gap between planning permissions and housing starts, saying: “The main constraints on the use of land for housing are related to obtaining all of the necessary approvals and agreements, a process which is lengthy, complex and unpredictable.  So any action taken to address such blockers, or that identifies others, is positive.”

RICS Scotland said it is “vital” that the additional £2 billion that Scotland will receive from the Budget is steered towards tackling Scotland’s chronic housing shortage and infrastructure deficit.

RICS Scotland director, Gail Hunter, said: “RICS market surveys have consistently reported a lack of housing supply across Scotland over the last two years, resulting in increased house prices and rents within the residential sector. We urge the Scottish Government to utilise the additional capital funding to not only further their commitment to building 50,000 new, affordable homes by 2021, but also improve building rates across all tenures.

“From an infrastructure perspective, the additional monies must be put into infrastructure projects that return the highest economic and social impact, whilst stimulating the Scottish construction industry.

“RICS has long called for the expansion of City Deals across Scotland, and we welcome the announcement that progress is being made on city deals for Tay Cities and Stirling, and on a growth deal for the Borderlands. This ensures that all Scottish cities have either received, or are in line to receive, funding for city investment.”

“Finally, the Chancellor recognised the additional financial burden that stamp duty can cause home buyers, and introduced a cut for first time buyers (up to £300,000).  Scrapping Stamp Duty for first-time buyers may stimulate activity at a time when the market is subdued However, this does not tackle the underlying problem, and is something of a distraction from the need to increase supply. Whilst the LBTT framework in Scotland already supports first-time buyers, it will be interesting to see if the Scottish Government recognises the inhibitive nature of the current LBTT framework and make suitable amendments to the LBTT banding structure which will encourage market fluidity in all price brackets.”

However Finance secretary Derek Mackay said the Budget represents a real terms cut to Scotland’s revenue block grant of over £200m next year.

Despite a commitment of over £300m resource funding for the NHS in England this year, Scotland will receive only £8m in consequentials in 2018-19 due to UK cuts elsewhere.

And of the additional £2bn the UK government announced as being added to Scotland’s budget, over half of it – £1.1bn – are financial transactions which the Scottish Government cannot spend on frontline public services, and which have to be repaid to the Treasury.

“The reality is that over £1.1bn of the money being promised to Scotland over the next four years are loans that the Scottish Government cannot spend directly on frontline public services and that have to be paid back to the Treasury,” Mr Mackay said.

Housebuilders look to sustain growth at annual Fife forum

(from left) Pam Ewen, Ian Drummond, Mark McEwen, Nicola Barclay, Cllr Altany Craik, Gordon Nelson, John Mills and Hugh Hall

(from left) Pam Ewen, Ian Drummond, Mark McEwen, Nicola Barclay, Cllr Altany Craik, Gordon Nelson, John Mills and Hugh Hall

Lochgelly, last year’s winner of Scotland’s Most Improved Town, was the venue of the 11th Fife House Builders Forum this week.

Over 70 delegates from across the house building industry came together at the Lochgelly Centre on Monday 13th November to discuss the recent upturn in the house building industry in Fife and debate how this growth can be nurtured and sustained.

The event, “Sustaining the Growth”, was organised by Fife Council’s Economy, Planning and Employability Service.

A packed audience was presented with a packed programme with Hazel Cross (economic advisor, Town Centre Development Unit, Fife Council) showcasing Lochgelly’s journey to becoming Scotland’s Most Improved Town; Gordon Nelson (director, Federation of Master Builders Scotland) speaking on the importance of the small and medium sized builders to the diversity and supply of new housing; Ian Drummond (managing director, Taylor Wimpey East Scotland) addressing the opportunities and blockers in maintaining housing growth; Nicola Barclay (chief executive, Homes for Scotland) emphasising the need for change, challenge and collaboration in smoothing the path to increased housing delivery; Mark McEwen (general manager, Customer Service, Scottish Water) explaining how infrastructure to enable development was being put in place; Pam Ewen (senior manager, Planning, Fife Council) highlighting the importance of the housing building industry to achieving £3 billion investment in strategic growth within Fife; Hugh Hall (principal, Fife College) tailoring the training offered by Fife College to the future needs of the construction industry; and John Mills (head of housing services, Fife Council) showing that affordable housing is key to the reduction of poverty in Fife.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, said: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to address the House Builders Forum, particularly in light of the ongoing collaboration between Homes for Scotland and Fife Council to support the delivery of more homes of all tenures across Fife.  The key themes of change, challenge and collaboration that I highlighted in my speech must remain the focus for Fife and all other authorities if we are to strengthen trust and resolve to work together to deliver more homes.”

The Forum was chaired by Councillor Altany Craik (convenor, economy, tourism, strategic planning and transportation committee, Fife Council) who added: “It is pleasing to see the commitment of all parts of the development community to delivering investment, skills, jobs and, above all, houses for the people of Fife. The prospects for further growth in the house building sector are good and Fife Council will work with the industry to sustain and increase this growth. Central to this is the highly successful Affordable Housing Programme and the council’s continuing drive to build on the previous success of 2,700 affordable homes already on the ground.”

Homes for Scotland boss heads builders’ housing rallying cry

Nicola Barclay

Nicola Barclay

Senior representatives from the home building industry, registered social landlords, local authorities and other housing stakeholder groups totalling 200 people met in Edinburgh yesterday to reflect on the tenth anniversary of the Scottish Government’s “Firm Foundations” discussion document and to consider what can be done to address Scotland’s housing crisis.

With the number of homes being built across the country each year still less than half the 35,000 that the Scottish Government outlined the need for a decade ago, Homes for Scotland chief executive Nicola Barclay issued a rallying call to the whole of the housing sector.

She told delegates attending the organisation’s largest ever conference that it was time for all those who want to see housing levels increased, regardless of tenure, to work together and roll up their sleeves to overcome the many barriers to delivery that remain if they are truly serious about achieving this objective.

She said: “The economic downturn obviously had a massive impact on housing delivery but the cold hard truth is that numbers continue to bump along the bottom, with completion figures for 2016 falling to 16,953 from 17,090 the previous year.

“For the sake of this and future generations, we simply have to get on top of this problem.  Politicians from all parties must take the long-view as well as recognise the bold action that is required to make a difference, the current planning review being a case in point.”

Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance, who delivered the morning’s keynote address, said: “Good quality, warm and affordable homes are vital to support and create jobs, and ensure a Scotland that is fairer and more prosperous. That is why we have committed to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes by the end of this Parliament, backed by £3 billion investment.

“Since 2007, we have delivered a record 69,000 affordable homes, and our previous five year target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes was exceeded. While our current target is ambitious, I am confident it can be achieved, working closely with all those with a role to play in delivering it, including Homes for Scotland.”

Letter to the Editor: Homes for Scotland clears up ‘anti social housing’ claims

Nicola Barclay

Nicola Barclay

Further to an interview in The Sunday Times in which I emphasised that solving Scotland’s housing crisis required a whole-system all-tenure approach, it appears that some people may have misinterpreted my remarks (indeed some misrepresenting them completely), framing them as being “anti social housing”.

With everything Homes for Scotland does focused on ensuring our growing population has access to a complete range of housing options in order to meet diverse need and aspiration, this is clearly not the case. Indeed, since it was established, Homes for Scotland has consistently highlighted the need to recognise the inter-dependencies between the public and private housing sectors and the importance of achieving a balanced tenure mix (as highlighted in our manifesto for the last Scottish Parliamentary elections).

For the sake of clarity, Homes for Scotland has never said (or implied) that “affordable and social rented house building was actually stymying the development of market housing”.  And we are certainly not attempting to “stymie social housebuilding”.

It is also exasperating to see the myth surrounding land banking being trotted out again. Despite a number of studies, no evidence has ever been found to substantiate claims that this is being used to restrict the supply of homes or housing land. With it simply making no sense for developers to allow land that they have bought to lie idle when the only way of getting a timely return on their investment is to build and sell homes, the main constraints on the use of land for housing are related to obtaining all of the necessary approvals and agreements – a process which is lengthy, complex and unpredictable.

What I was actually highlighting in the body of The Sunday Times story was that focusing on one tenure at the expense of others will not, in itself, solve our housing crisis. The stark reality, whether some people choose to accept it or not, is that the current 50,000 affordable housing target can only be achieved if we also have a healthy private sector – since not only do private home builders make significant direct contributions in this regard, the same issues that affect them (such as the poorly performing planning system, front-funding of infrastructure and education provision) also affect the public sector.

Of course, it is right and proper to have a robust debate on the way forward for housing in Scotland, but please let’s read beyond regrettably-worded headlines and look at the real substance of the matter. Some, however, will never seek to engage positively and constructively. I believe that it is this kind of approach that does those looking for a new home, whatever the circumstances, the most misdeed.

Nicola Barclay

Chief Executive

Homes for Scotland

Homes for Scotland’s anti-social housebuilding agenda ‘out of touch with reality’

construction stockHomes for Scotland’s view that a focus on affordable and social housing is exacerbating Scotland’s housing crisis and fails to grasp the commercial realities of development is “out of touch with reality” and must be “rejected outright” by the Scottish Government, according to a think-tank.

In an interview with The Times, recounted in Scottish Construction Now yesterdayNicola Barclay, chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland (HFS), said the government’s target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by the end of this parliamentary session is damaging private sector growth and would not solve the current housing crisis.

However, Ben Wray, head of policy at Common Weal, has argued that this “anti-social” view is lobbying for the very property developer model which caused the housing crisis.

Mr Wray said: “When even Conservative minister’s in the UK government are saying that to solve the housing crisis we need to borrow more to build social housing, Homes for Scotland’s attempt to stymie social housebuilding in Scotland appear totally out of touch with reality.

“Since Homes for Scotland offer no clear policy solutions, it can only be assumed that this attack on social housebuilding is aggressive lobbying to extract yet more subsidies for private developers. Considering (earlier this month) the Scottish Government announced a new subsidy for private sector build-to-rent housing in partnership Homes for Scotland – on top of the huge subsidy they already get through housing benefit – it is quite remarkable that they are back for more so soon after.

“Any attempt to further privatise the housing market must be rejected outright by the Scottish Government. Not only is the dominance of the profit-motive in housing the major force behind the financial crisis in 2008, it is also the very reason why more affordable housing is not being built by the private sector, as rising property prices and land values make it more profitable to sit on land than to build on it. ONS data shows average house prices in Scotland hit their highest level ever in September 2017, rising above the previous pre-recession peak.

“The property developer model is what created the housing crisis – it would be madness to believe it can solve it as well.”

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said he “couldn’t disagree more” that a move away from focus on social housing will help resolve the problems facing the sector.

He tweeted: “It is only a focus on affordable & social housing that will genuinely release the pressure on our housing system.

“It is exactly because we have not focussed enough on social house building in recent years that we are in a housing crisis.”

Social housing focus ‘will not solve Scotland’s housing crisis’

Nicola Barclay

Nicola Barclay

The Scottish Government’s “political focus” on affordable and social housing is exacerbating Scotland’s housing crisis and fails to grasp the commercial realities of development, according to Scotland’s house builders.

In an interview with The Times, Nicola Barclay, chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland (HFS), said the government’s target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by the end of this parliamentary session is damaging private sector growth and would not solve the current housing crisis.

Ms Barclay added increasing the number of homes being built required a better understanding from Holyrood of the commercial realities of development as well as the help of the private sector.

She told The Times: “The government must work in partnership with the private sector but it seems reluctant to acknowledge the importance of home builders in solving the housing crisis or the urgency with which we need action if it is to become easier, rather than increasingly difficult, to open new sites.

“It requires a cultural change in the way politicians, local authorities and communities view development.”

Ms Barclay added: “Three-quarters of Scots want to own their own home but there is no national target for the private sector, which accounts for the biggest proportion of housing output and significantly contributes to the provision of affordable housing through planning policy. If the target for affordable homes is to be met, the Scottish Government must broaden its focus and adopt a whole-system approach that recognises the importance of all tenures.”

Planning performance figures for 2016/17, published earlier this year, revealed that the average decision time for major housing developments was 44.9 weeks for 2016/17, more than four weeks slower than the previous year (40.6 weeks) and almost three times the statutory period of 16 weeks.

And just last month, HFS urged the Scottish Government to guard against complacency as new statistics showed a marginal increase of just 251 homes (1%) completed in 2016-17 compared to the previous year.

Ms Barclay said: “We are still building 36% less homes than pre-recession levels. Housing output is flatlining, with the most recent official figures showing a total of only 16,498 homes built in 2016, just 88 more, or 1%, than in the year before. With our population at a record high, that’s bad news for those looking for a new home, particularly young people and growing families.”

Dismissing the criticism, housing minister Kevin Stewart, said: “Our changes to the planning system aim to strengthen the role of planning in delivering housing and infrastructure and continue to support the industry and local authorities to deliver their housing priorities with quality homes in mixed communities that fit local needs.

“The rate of house-building completions across all sectors puts Scotland ahead of England and Wales and we outperform the whole of the UK in new-build social sector completion rates. In fact, we have built 41,000 more homes than would have been built at England’s slower per-capita rate.”