Builders welcome spotlight on the importance of housing

CEO of Homes for Scotland, Philip Hogg
Philip Hogg

Homes for Scotland has welcomed the publication of a major report which called for a radical look at the future direction of housing policy in Scotland.

Published yesterday by the independent Commission on Housing and Wellbeing, Housing and Wellbeing: ‘A blueprint for Scotland’s future’ lays out a challenging programme for housing and makes 18 priority recommendations which it says would begin to address the housing-related poverty and environmental challenges currently facing Scotland.

Responding to the report, Philip Hogg, chief executive of the industry body, said the importance of housing should rightly be in the spotlight.

He said: “We welcome (yesterday’s) report which highlights the vitally important role housing plays in relation to our country’s well-being and future success. We also welcome the call for a significant increase in house building given that the number of homes being built remains some 40 per cent down on 2007 with only 15,541 completed last year. It is therefore vital that a sustainable growth plan is put in place to address this undersupply.

“In order for the Scottish Government to achieve its ambitions for a fairer and more prosperous society, it must ensure we have enough homes of the right types in the right locations to meet Scotland’s diverse housing needs. This will require meaningful action on planning, skills and the availability of finance - both for builders and buyers. Indeed, Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil stated his support for an all-tenure approach and we look forward to learning more about the new initiatives which he will be announcing to increase production.”

Researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) contributed fuel poverty evidence to the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing’s report.

Dr Keith Baker
Dr Keith Baker

GCU’s Dr Keith Baker, an expert in environmental science and policy, and PhD researcher Ron Mould provided written and verbal evidence to the Commission in the area of the built environment.

Dr Baker said: “What we flagged up is an ‘energy gap’ between the real and reported consumption and costs of the energy used by rural households, and that there needs to be a focus on rural fuel poverty in particular for improved housing and wellbeing in Scotland.”

A person is to be regarded as living in fuel poverty if more than 10 per cent of the household income is spent on maintaining an adequate heating regime.

The Scottish Government has a target of eliminating fuel poverty as far as practicable by 2016, however the proportion of fuel poor households was nearly 40 per cent in 2013. For many remote and rural communities, the figure is higher.

Dr Baker said in Scotland, where the urban-rural divide is much more distinct than other areas, the problem of fuel poverty in rural areas is more significant and multi-faceted than existing statistics suggest.

Research conducted by the GCU team has suggested that current policies for addressing fuel poverty are insufficiently sensitive to the needs and circumstances of rural households (Baker et al., 2014).

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