‘The homes we need’: safeguard social housing, build on brownfield sites

“A civilised society should be so ordered that every person has secure housing”

The FT reports that the Scottish parliament has voted to “safeguard Scotland’s social housing stock for the benefit of citizens today and for our future generations”. Its local authorities own over 300,000 social housing units.

Scotland had already restricted the right to buy in areas where social housing shortages were acute and in 2001 reduced the discount to houses’ market price to £15,000 or less.

margaret burgess msp housingHowever, the prohibition on using the purchase price to fund the building of new social housing made it more difficult for local authorities to provide suitable homes for disadvantaged groups and later generations of tenants.

Margaret Burgess, housing minister [far right] therefore said earlier this year: “With 185,000 people on waiting lists for council and housing association houses, we can no longer afford to see the social sector lose badly needed homes”.

In May, Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) wrote to the FT pointing out that successive major reforms in recent years have not led to an increase in housing output. He criticised the political corporate reluctance to build on brownfield sites because they believe that ‘no one wants to live on them’. He continued:

Edinburgh“Our most successful cities (Edinburgh, number one above) are full of people happily living on “old industrial sites” whose reclamation makes life better for everyone. But brownfield development is more likely to involve small-scale infill or the regeneration of existing housing estates or high streets than “old industrial sites”. CPRE’s research shows there is suitable brownfield land for at least a million new homes in England, most of it in London and the wider south east: let’s use it”.

He then raises the question of who is going to build the homes we need, saying: “There is absolutely no evidence that the industry is either willing or able to build on the scale promised by the political parties. When we consistently built more than 200,000 houses a year, the state built more than half of them”.

His conclusion? “Unless governments — and distinguished newspapers — focus on who is going to build and pay for the homes we need, the result will be the same as it was after the last round of planning reforms: too few homes built, too much countryside lost”.

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