I’m delighted to support the first Scottish Housing Day and I want to congratulate all of those hard working organisations and individuals who have made this annual date possible.
Scottish Housing Day is a great opportunity to let people know about the range of housing options available in Scotland.
We have always been clear that access to good quality housing is vital for boosting economic growth, promoting social justice, strengthening our communities and tackling inequalities. That is why this Government is investing £3 billion over the lifetime of this Parliament to deliver 50,000 affordable homes – with 35,000 of these being for social rent.
This builds on our work in the last Parliament where we exceeded our target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes.
If we take a minute to look back to thirty years or so ago, people’s housing options were relatively straight forward. You could apply to a council to rent a home or go to the building society to get a mortgage. There would have been a small number of people renting in the private sector while a few might have received a home through their employment. And it’s certainly fair to say energy efficiency wasn’t such a high priority.
Since the 1980s we have seen major changes in housing. The Right to Buy policy of the 1980s significantly reduced the numbers of homes available for social rent. That is why we chose to end it, protecting 15,500 homes for social rent over the next decade. Local and national housing associations have grown in number and size and play an important role providing homes and also supporting vulnerable people in their communities.
We’ve seen the private rented sector doubling in recent years, providing even more choice, and with people living longer, and a rise in the number of single households, the overall number of households has increased.
So we need more homes, and also need to recognise that we have different needs at different stages of our lives. That is why the Scottish Government, working with our partners in the housing sector, is supporting a range of options for renting and buying homes.
As well as our investment in affordable homes, we are supporting up to 5,000 households to buy their own home through the Open Market Shared Equity Scheme and the new Help to Buy (Scotland) schemes.
We are also aware letting people know all the options available to them is particularly crucial, especially in light of a poll carried out for Scottish Housing Day which found that the majority of those who responded knew nothing, or very little about all tenures apart from the main three – buying with a mortgage, private renting and social renting. That means many people could be losing out on home ownership because they don’t know the full picture. Scottish Housing Day is a good platform to help raise that awareness.
Another issue that has changed over the years is our recognition of the need for a warm and energy efficient home. Improving the energy efficiency of our existing homes is vital. Not only does it lead to lower household fuel bills, it also contributes to our wider ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions helping to tackle climate change. That is why we have committed to investing more than half a billion pounds for energy efficiency and combating fuel poverty through the Scottish Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) over the next four years.
These are just some of the actions that the Scottish Government is taking. What is clear is that we need to work together to deliver the homes that Scotland needs. On Scottish Housing Day we should celebrate the work of all those organisations who are doing just that.
I congratulate everyone who has signed up to the day, and I hope to see this initiative go from strength to strength.
Kevin Stewart, MSP
Minister for Local Government and Housing