Elena Whitham MSP, Deputy Convener of the Local Government, Housing & Planning Committee, Scottish Parliament, talks affordable housing in Scotland.
Over the past 14 years, the Scottish Government has transformed how we view affordable housing, investing in social and affordable homes right across the country. Coming out of the pandemic means now is the time to take stock and consider the vision for housing over a longer time frame.
This vision contained in our long term Housing to 2040 strategy puts housing firmly at the centre of our other objectives for people in Scotland such as tackling poverty and inequality, creating and supporting jobs, ensuring we meet our energy efficiency and fuel poverty targets and tackle the climate emergency, and making sure we have connected, cohesive communities to live in.
In my new role as the Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, I want to ensure that we realise the aims and cross portfolio strategic vision of Housing to 2040, which breaks away from the false five-year parliamentary term providing more clarity and certainty about the future of affordable housing and gives the time and space needed for those homes to be planned and delivered in the right places and to the highest possible quality. This was supported cross party and by both local and national governments and it will take clear leadership and concerted collective effort to bring the vision to reality.
In my previous role as Cosla’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, I was at the heart of local government housing policy and worked solidly to ensure funding followed these joint endeavours. With f ive year resource planning assumptions now given to Scottish local authorities to deliver on the next 50,000 affordable homes, the certainty of resources is now overshadowed by the scarcity of materials and the huge increases in costs due to the perfect storm of Brexit and the pandemic. This is adding millions to the cost of housing developments and risks our collective aims.
Add to this the pressing climate emergency and the need to ensure our new and existing homes are energy efficient and we have mounting resourcing pressures. Our proposed National Planning Framework 4 will be key to delivery on so many of these policy areas that cross portfolios and local government silos and the LGHP Committee is very much alive to the resourcing issues facing Planning departments across the land.
Central and key to this work is ensuring that communities and place plans are resourced effectively with money and capacity building to help shape and create sustainable vibrant communities where many of us will be able to access services and leisure within a twenty minute walk. We have the vision and we have the will and now we need the determination to deliver.
• Elena was previously Chair of the APSE Scotland Soft FM Advisory Group., For more information about how this group or our national group can help improve your service, please contact us at enquiries@ apse.org.uk