Calls for £100m boost for affordable homes and more jobs in Scotland by housing advocates
AS the Scottish Government's new economic stimulus package was unveiled this week, housing charities, contractors and organisations called on the government to prioritise housing as well as commercial and industrial projects.
Shelter Scotland joined the Scottish Building Federation (SBF) and Homes for Scotland (HoS) among others to suggest that the £100m stimulus package, which was welcomed by the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC), would ensure the target for affordable homes was reached.
Given reports of slowing economic growth after the vote to leave the European Union, housing groups also stated that such a specifically targeted move would help kickstart greater investment and economic activity.
"Scotland needs 12,000 new affordable homes each year for the next five years to start tackling the housing crisis and bring hope of a home to the 150,000 households on council waiting lists across Scotland." Graeme Brown
Speaking to CommonSpace, Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "Some of the £100m stimulus package could kickstart the massive housebuilding programme so desperately needed to tackle Scotland’s chronic shortage of affordable homes.
"There are shovel-ready housing developments just waiting for investment.
"Scotland needs 12,000 new affordable homes each year for the next five years to start tackling the housing crisis and bring hope of a home to the 150,000 households on council waiting lists across Scotland.
"Shelter Scotland’s own research showed that an affordable house-building drive on that scale would sustain up to 19,000 jobs, with every £1m invested in affordable housing generating £2.1m of wider economic activity."
"A strategy focused on rebuilding industry confidence and stimulating employment needs to target additional funding towards housing as well as clearing obstacles to commercial and industrial output." Vaughan Hart
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week announced plans to increase capital spending on infrastructure projects, starting with the additional £100m of funding in this financial year, which was described as a measure to address the negative effects of Brexit on the Scottish economy.
She also demanded on Wednesday that the UK Government guarantee the EU structure funds that are due to Scotland until 2020. The structural and investment funds are a collection of five main funding projects which support economic development across EU countries.
The SBF told the Scottish Government that in addition to a general focus on more housing projects there should be more commercial and industrial projects as "those sectors of the industry most likely to boost employment".
Vaughan Hart, managing director of the SBF, said: "In this period of economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote, any moves to accelerate investment in construction projects are of course welcome.
"However, if the objective is to stimulate employment within the Scottish construction industry, we would argue that investing in housing and smoothing the path for commercial and industrial projects ought to be the priority.
"Over the past 10 years, we have seen a dramatic shift in industry output away from housing and commercial and industrial activity towards infrastructure, which accounted for almost 30 per cent of a record Scottish industry output of more than £14bn last year. At the same time, industry employment has declined from more than 235,000 in 2008 to 175,000 in 2015."
Hart added: "A strategy focused on rebuilding industry confidence and stimulating employment needs to target additional funding towards housing as well as clearing obstacles to commercial and industrial output. A good start would be to reinstate business rates relief for empty industrial properties."
"Shelter Scotland’s own research showed that an affordable house-building drive on that scale would sustain up to 19,000 jobs, with every £1m invested in affordable housing generating £2.1m of wider economic activity." Graeme Brown
The construction and consultation body, HoS emphasised the importance of precision funding into the delivery of more affordable homes and in turn boost jobs and the economy.
Nicola Barclay, chief executive, said: "This £100m funding boost is welcomed as a means to support and stimulate the economy in what are uncertain times for many industries, including the home building sector.
"With projects being assessed for accelerated funding based on key criteria such as the number of jobs that will be supported or created and the likely impact on the supply chain, those focused on the delivery of more new homes should be prioritised given the significant social and economic benefits this offers.
"Every new home built in Scotland supports four jobs and helps boost economic growth through the supply chain. The industry also contributes to improving health and education outcomes and fighting fuel poverty.
"We would therefore urge the Scottish Government to prioritise housing when considering how these funds will be allocated in order to secure the thriving economic future we all want to see."
The Scottish Government has said it will release more details about the stimulus package, also referred to as the Capital Acceleration Programme, at a later date.
Picture courtesy of Shelter Scotland
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