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We must seize this opportunity and demonstrate our value

This Housing Day, SFHA Head of Policy and Innovation Lorna Wilson says that there is only one sector that can deliver the economic and social value and boosts that our country and people are so desperately needing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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There is absolutely no doubt that 2020 has seen the social housing sector having to face challenges that we would never even have thought imaginable, but with Covid putting a focus on the importance of our homes like never before, it is also presenting an opportunity for us to demonstrate the value of housing associations and co-operatives and show why sustaining investment after this parliament is vital. 

With the current parliament ending in 2021, 2020 was always going to be the year when SFHA set out our case for continued investment for affordable housing, and we planned to do this with two key research projects: the first, to set another robust housing target and, the second, to demonstrate the impact that housing associations and co-operatives’ homes and wider services have on people’s lives. We knew both pieces of research were going to be important when we commissioned them, but we would never have guessed that we’d be launching them within the context of a global pandemic and their findings would become even more critical.

In June, together with Shelter Scotland and CIH Scotland, we launched Affordable Housing Need in Scotland Post-21, a follow up to research produced five years ago which informed the Scottish Government’s current Affordable Housing Supply Programme. The study found that increasing affordable housing supply levels from the current target of 50,000 homes, over five years, to 53,000 will help to address existing, as well as newly arising, need from 2021.

Just last week, we released The Impact of Social Housing: Economic, Social, Health and Wellbeing which was written by UK Collaborative Centre of Housing Evidence and HACT for SFHA, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Public Health Scotland, and the Rural and Islands Housing Associations Forum. The report found that investment in the social housing sector generates economic and social benefits for Scotland and its people, including reducing poverty and homelessness, improving health, and creating jobs.

Both research projects highlight that investment in the social housing sector must be viewed by the Scottish Government as key to Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic. The financial effects of Covid-19 will have left many people not only in desperate housing need but requiring the support housing associations and co-operatives provide such as welfare advice and access to employability partnerships.

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the value of housing associations and co-operatives and their wider impact that goes far beyond ‘just’ delivering affordable housing. They have continued to deliver vital services during the pandemic and acted as community anchor organisations, helping to support some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people by delivering food and medicine, providing access to technology and the internet to help people to stay connected, carrying out wellbeing calls, and donating emergency hardship funds.

We were pleased to see the Scottish Government acknowledge in its response to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery from Covid-19 that “housing plays a vital role in the lives of everyone across Scotland and is a critical asset for a wellbeing green recovery”, however, with the next Scottish Parliament election not until next May, it is vital that we don’t lose the momentum that is building. The coronavirus pandemic has shown just how vital it is that Scotland’s people have access to good quality, affordable, warm, energy efficient housing as well as the support that housing associations and co-operatives provide.

There is only one sector that can deliver the economic and social value and boosts that our country and people are so desperately needing – and that is the social housing sector. We must seize this moment and ensure this is recognised by all political parties, so we can keep delivering in 2021 and beyond.

A new joint paper has been published by SFHA, CIH Scotland, Shelter Scotland, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO) and the Tenant Participatory Advisory Service Scotland which calls for social housing to be at the heart of the Scottish Government’s capital investment programme. The paper notes the economic and social benefits from building social housing and calls on the Scottish Government to commit to funding at least 53,000 social and affordable homes in the next Parliamentary term.



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