Blog: Bringing private and social housing together can be the key to successful regeneration

John Gallacher
John Gallacher at the Athletes’ Village development in Dalmarnock

John Gallacher champions the use of mixed tenure developments to create thriving and sustainable communities as he looks back on four decades spent in the housing industry.

In March I will retire after a 40 year career in housing - a vocation which has given me the chance to make a difference on issues I’ve felt passionate about, like urban regeneration and economic growth and although I am looking forward to retirement, I will also miss my work immensely.

Leaving a much-loved job has inspired a bit of reflection on what has changed in Scottish housing over the course of my career. One of the biggest differences between now and then is the demographics of housing. Today, Scottish Government figures indicate only 23% of people live in social housing – in 1980 this figure was 60% and social housing was seen as a way of offering affordable, secure accommodation to all. Political parties agreed on its importance, and there was little or no stigma attached. Now, after a generation where most people owned their homes, due to the challenging financial climate, we see younger people returning to social renting.

The problem is building enough of these homes. Over half a million social homes were sold off under Right to Buy policy, but for every three sold, only one was built in replacement. Since the global financial crisis, housebuilding levels have stayed low, leaving thousands of people on waiting lists for secure, affordable homes. For future generations, we as a society must invest in providing high quality homes for social rental, as well as affordable housing to buy.

Much of my career has been spent working on developments that brought together a mix of social housing and affordable homes for sale including more than 75 partnership projects, working with councils and housing associations in some of Scotland’s most challenging areas. By building affordable, high quality, energy efficient developments with facilities, amenities and transport links, we ensured that these developments became thriving and sustainable communities. My work to create successful mixed tenure communities was a major factor in earning me a place on the recently published, Inside Housing’s Scottish Leaders List, of which I am immensely proud.

Mixed tenure developments are relatively commonplace now, encouraged by Government policy, but back in the day they were often met with scepticism. In the 1990s, Cruden was responsible for the first mixed tenure developments of private homes built alongside social housing in Glasgow’s Castlemilk. Despite the many doubters the project was so successful we went on to build more than 600 homes for sale and 450 homes for social rent, and this work is credited as playing a vital part in Castlemilk’s transformation.

In Govan, we delivered 290 homes for rent along with 85 homes for sale as part of the Central Govan Action Plan - a £120 million regeneration initiative. We co-ordinated a team of socially-committed partners, which included Glasgow City Council, Glasgow South West Regeneration Agency, housing associations and credit unions to develop the Unique Property Solutions model. This was a package of bespoke mortgage products and support services designed to help first-time buyers overcome their financial obstacles. More than 90% of the private properties were sold to first-time buyers who benefited from either UPS or the Scottish Government’s LIFT scheme.

I can’t possibly talk about career highlights without mentioning the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village. As part of the City Legacy consortium that developed The Village, I have just had the huge pleasure of receiving a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Better than any award, though, is what The Village has done for Glasgow’s east end. With 400 homes for social rental and 300 private homes all fully occupied, and residents benefitting from the nearby sporting and community facilities as well as a district heating system, the Village tangibly demonstrates what a success high-quality mixed-tenure housing can be.

I believe that housing brings with it the most important element of regeneration – people, and that mixed-tenure projects bring people from a variety of social and economic backgrounds together. And that, I strongly believe, is how real communities are built.

  • John Gallacher MBE, is the former managing director of Cruden Estates and a director of City Legacy and chairman of Clyde Gateway Development Company Ltd

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