New discussion paper gives insider view on how to deliver more homes

Nicola Barclay

Homes for Scotland (HFS) has published a discussion paper on the actions required to meet the country’s housing need and demand.

From the planning system to land reform, there is much current debate and change afoot, recognising the need to deliver more homes. Many of the solutions being put forward, however, take little account of the real challenges facing the industry at the heart of housing provision.

Covering a wide range of areas from developer finance to skills and industry capacity, as well as topical issues such as the planning system, infrastructure and perceptions of home building, this is a position HFS is seeking to change through its new discussion paper ‘Delivering More Homes for Scotland: barriers and solutions’.

The paper also sets out in clear terms some often misunderstood issues, such as how home builders value potential development sites, how homes themselves are valued, the interaction between house prices and land prices and how a typical development is currently taxed (including the developer contributions used to capture some of the land value uplift to fund infrastructure).

It is launched as the Planning Bill currently makes its way through parliament and as the Scottish Land Commission (SLC) is exploring options for land reform, including through its own series of Land Lines discussion papers. The new HFS document is a vital accompaniment to the SLC series, addressing the disappointing omission of the experience and perspective of Scotland’s home builders.

Solutions proposed by HFS include meaningful support for small-scale home builders to increase industry capacity, the exploration of options for a new town-type model for large-scale housing delivery and ensuring that the planning system is collaborative, fully-resourced and able to deliver decisions quickly.

HFS chief executive, Nicola Barclay, said: “Home building is a hugely complex business but there is too little information available to help those outside the industry better understand the challenges involved. This is visible in some of the debate around planning and land reform.

“It is our job to fill that information gap and show the positive role our industry plays in Scotland –significantly contributing to debate as well as to the country’s social wellbeing and economic success. Rather than just critiquing the ideas of others, we wanted to provide genuinely useful information that will support better informed policy-making. We want this paper to mark a huge step forward in public understanding of home building.

“Scotland’s home builders are a positive part of our country’s future. It is therefore vital that land reform, planning reform and all other changes that affect them are informed by them.”

Tammy Swift-Adams

HFS director of planning, Tammy Swift-Adams, said: “There are real challenges on the horizon that could have serious unintended consequences for Scotland as a whole, not just our industry. Changes to planning appeal rights are an obvious example, but our members are also concerned that their ability to deliver more homes will be directly affected if land reform proposals are not brought forward in close discussion with those who are building homes now.

“HFS has been at the forefront of calls to make the planning system more collaborative. For Scotland to succeed, we need to deliver the homes its people need and aspire to live in. Everyone involved – from policy-makers to builders and communities – needs to consider what homes we want, where we want them and how they will be delivered.

“Our paper provides practical information that can be put to use by policy-makers and other opinion-shapers to make sure major reforms genuinely enable the delivery of more new homes by companies building now and new entrants to the market.”

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