Jane Wood: Why new homes are vital to civic society
With a variety of social issues highlighted by adverts over the festive period, Homes for Scotland chief executive Jane Wood considers why now, more than ever, we should reflect on the role housing has in our society.
Supporting everyone’s right to an adequate standard of living and enshrined within the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, access to a home is fundamental to Scotland’s physical, social and economic fabric. The importance of building both market homes and affordable housing is clear: improving people’s life chances, supporting good place-making, developing sustainable communities, delivering essential infrastructure and boosting the economy.
But with an accumulated c100k shortfall in new homes since 2007, there remains a critical shortage against a backdrop of nearly 30,000 households assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness and many thousands of others also in need of a home (eg single adults living with parents or sharing a flat, families living in a home with inadequate bedroom space) not counted as such.
The provision of new homes of all tenures is so interconnected that it is essential that we take a one system approach when discussing – and this is my call to action to those who are part of and those who influence the delivery of new homes.
It is the responsibility of civic society as a whole to not only ensure we have the homes we need for this and future generations but to welcome them. However, there are many harmful myths, stereotypes and misconceptions preventing this – eg the assertion that vast swathes of our landscape is being ‘concreted over’ when only 2.1% of land in Scotland is built upon.
We also need to see an end to the “not in my back yard” attitude that seems to be held by many in communities who themselves already have the comfort and security of a home. Houses are not built at the whim of private home builders. Rather, they are demand-led and part of a local development plan signed off by local government where a need for more homes has been identified.
The number of households is projected to increase by 120,000 by 2028 to 2.6m and up to 2.71m by 2043. Most of this growth is among older age groups but there are many reasons why people need a new home – a change in personal circumstances perhaps, or the need for more space to accommodate hybrid and remote working.
I have a clear and unequivocal message: new housing has a vital role to play in meeting the needs of Scotland’s population, including eradicating child poverty and homelessness, ending fuel poverty, tackling the effects of climate change and promoting inclusive growth.
So please, whenever you encounter any individuals or groups with negative reactions as to why we need more homes, ask them to pause and reflect for a moment on the clear evidence for their need, think of those who will live in these new houses and consider how much their own home means to them.