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“Building the 50,000 affordable homes will be a major challenge – housing associations will need to share skills”

Interview with David Stewart, SFHA Policy Lead. 

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David Stewart, SFHA Policy Lead, shares his views on the future of development and what he is most looking forward to about the federation’s Development Conference.

What do you think are key issues that will be covered during this year’s Development Conference?

I would say there are three big issues that we are looking at. First of all, the Scottish Government has set a welcome commitment to build 50,000 much needed affordable homes during the course of this parliament. The opening session will focus on progress towards meeting this target and look at the challenges that need to be addressed. Crucially, we will also look at the benefits of quality affordable housing to communities and individuals and the need to maximise the benefit of this major investment.

The second big issue is partnership working – building the 50,000 affordable homes will be a major challenge, with plans for a 40% increase in new social housing on the previous five years. To do that, housing associations need to share skills and resources and work collaboratively – whether that’s with other housing associations, with local authorities or with developers and contractors – we’ll be hearing about examples of all three.

Finally, we will be looking to the future. There are increasing concerns about a housing crisis, with younger people unable to buy a home but unlikely to be housed in social housing. We will be looking at the extent of this issue and at some possible solutions.

What are you most looking forward to about the conference?

The conference is always a great opportunity for people to catch up. I’ve been working in development for longer than I care to remember, and the conference is a good chance to meet up with former colleagues as well as meet new people and hear new ideas. So while I’m really looking forward to some of the sessions, for me, that’s the best bit.

What should organisations be looking out for in the future of development?

Beyond partnership working and meeting the needs of “generation rent”, I think there are two big challenges for people working in development. One is embracing technology and this becoming mainstream – I believe that building homes off-site has real potential to improve the energy efficiency of homes and increase the number of homes that we deliver. While there has been a move to using off-site construction, I think this will become the main way that we build homes in future and housing associations are ideally placed to lead.

Secondly, as a population, we are aging and we need to make homes adaptable for future needs and allow people to continue to live at home. There are some great new schemes, such as the Blackwood House and the Albyn Fit House, I think, as a sector, we need to look at the small changes we can make to integrate the best innovations and ideas into standard designs.    

This year’s Development Conference takes place on 6 February and is followed by the Procurement Conference on 7 February. Both conferences take place at The Studio in Glasgow. Take advantage and get two events at one great price for £375 – a saving of £63 per delegate.

Alternatively, book three delegate places and receive a fourth free. For further information, or to book, visit www.sfha.co.uk/whats-on