Councils must change housing need policy

The Herald, 6 May 2012, Letter, Sarah Glynn

Topic of the week: Scotland’s housing crisis

It was good to see attention being focused on our endemic and growing housing crisis (The housing timebomb, News, April 29).

Of particular interest was the focus on the impacts of the loss of social housing through Right to Buy, and of the Scottish Government’s decision to substitute some of their planned social housing with “affordable housing”, which is not affordable to a large part of those in need of homes. However, the article overlooks another important driver of the shortage of social rented housing. Scottish councils are expected to plan according to a “housing need model” that is predicated on reducing social rented housing to a minimal safety net. The model assumes that no-one should be eligible for social housing if they could possibly afford to buy or rent in the market, even if that would leave them living at near benefit level; and it also assumes that the existing backlog of housing need should only be met at the rate of a measly 10% a year.

This model has been used to promote a deliberate reduction in social housing, even in places with long housing waiting lists. Thousands of homes have been demolished, often against the wishes of their residents. Not all these homes were in good condition, but even so, they could have been brought up to new standards at a fraction of the cost of building from scratch. Each year over the last two decades, around 1000 more social rented homes were demolished in Scotland than were built. The remaining social rented housing has tended to become concentrations of poverty, and many households have been forced into the insecurity of private renting. If the Scottish Government is serious about tackling the housing crisis they need to reject this housing need model.

Sarah Glynn

Broughty Ferry


See Sarah Glynn’s excellent website, crammed full of persuasive arguments about public/social housing here