Homes for Scotland calls on Holyrood to meet Scottish home owning aspirations

Philip Hogg
Philip Hogg

The home building industry in Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to follow Prime Minister David Cameron in acting boldly to help meet the home owning aspirations of the majority of Scots.

The call follows Mr Cameron’s announcement of plans for 200,000 new starter homes for first time buyers aged under 40 south of the border by allowing greater flexibility in the way affordable housing is provided.

Speaking on the last day of the Conservative Party conference yesterday, the Prime Minister announced some key UK government policies that will underpin his “crusade” on housebuilding.

In essence, the government is shifting the ground under Section 106 planning gain rules so that developers can fulfil their obligations to local authorities by delivering “affordable” homes for sale rather than rent.

Mr Cameron said: “For years, politicians have been talking about building what they call ‘affordable homes’ – but the phrase was deceptive. It basically meant homes that were only available to rent. What people want are homes they can actually own.

“So today, I can announce a dramatic shift in housing policy in our country. Those old rules which said to developers: you can build on this site, but only if you build affordable homes for rent, we’re replacing them with new rules – you can build here, and those affordable homes can be available to buy.”

Philip Hogg, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, hopes Holyrood will follow in the Prime Minister’s footsteps and announce similar policies to help Scots become homeowners.

He said: “Whilst the ability of people to buy has been suppressed in recent years by the fall in the number of homes being built and high deposit requirements, it is a fact that the majority of those living in Scotland still aspire to own their home.

“This is the finding of recent Scottish Government research with a Bank of Scotland report earlier this year also highlighting that the main priority for 18-34 year olds is to own their own home.

“The First Minister has made clear that improving opportunity for all is her personal mission. Ensuring we have enough warm, sustainable homes of all types to meet the diverse needs of our growing population is fundamental to achieving this goal.

“The recently announced successor to the Scottish Government’s Help to Buy shared equity scheme, which will be aimed at assisting affordable home ownership, could, if targeted and funded appropriately, be one of the solutions to helping Scots achieve their housing aspirations.”

While the intention to provide assistance for first time buyers was considered laudable across the English housing sector, concerns were raised over Cameron’s announcement.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: “We know that millions of young people desperate to take their first step on the housing ladder are unable to do so because of the cost of buying a home, so it’s positive that the Government is looking at ways to help first-time buyers through starter homes. But what about people on lower incomes who can’t afford to buy, even with a 20 per cent discount?

“More affordable housing to rent is critical if we are going to solve the housing crisis, but this policy could result in a significant reduction – according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 37 per cent of all affordable homes in England were completed through section 106 agreements in 2013-14.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, added: “These plans could be disastrous for thousands of households across England. The lack of affordable housing is already a major cause of homelessness and today’s proposals will only add insult to injury. For people struggling on low incomes, home ownership is a distant dream and renting is their only option. Reducing the number of affordable homes available for rent will make it even harder for these people to find a place to live. Instead, we need radical moves to increase genuinely affordable supply and we must not abandon requirements for developers to build affordable homes to rent.”

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