The chairperson of one of Scotland’s leading housing associations has called for urgent action to halt the country’s escalating housing crisis with rising waiting lists and spiralling house prices making it very difficult for people to find a home.
Speaking to the Annual General Meeting of Kingdom Housing Association, Charles Milne called for an increase in Scottish Government subsidies for new affordable housing and pointed out that the waiting list in Fife had now reached 11,830 with around 150,000 families across Scotland queuing for a home.
Reflecting on the progress of the previous year he reported that with 128 new homes completed, work begun on a further 160 houses, £21 million invested in affordable housing, further development of advice and assistance services to tenants and continued delivery of wider role projects, Kingdom had made significant achievements.
He said: “We are working not just with our established partners in Fife but also further afield in Perth and Kinross, Clackmannan and Falkirk to deliver affordable homes and provide care and support services to the vulnerable in the community. We now provide vital support to 251 people with a service which is very highly rated by official inspectors.
“Our dedicated staff, supported by the committee members and encouraged by the positive feedback we receive from tenants are constantly innovating to deliver houses that are energy efficient and suited to the changing requirement of tenants. And we are constantly seeking to positively contribute to the communities where we are active.”
But Mr Milne added: “Year in, year out, Kingdom Housing Association has proved that it can deliver — just like many other affordable housing providers across Scotland. Whilst we are proud of our achievements we are not complacent and we could deliver much, much more. I would urge all members and friends of our association and the wider housing movement to lobby MSPs and candidates of all parties to ensure that housing moves right up the political agenda.”
He added: “Housing associations like Kingdom are being hit by a double whammy of rising construction costs and additional costs imposed by new regulations. The present level of government benchmark subsidy of £58,000 is totally inadequate when it costs an average of £125,000 to build a new home. The Scottish Government will soon be reviewing their spending plans and I would call upon them to find the funds to implement the recommendations of the 2015 Subsidy Working Group to increase subsidy levels per unit of housing built.
“That would be a good start but much more needs to be done and an urgent re-ordering of priorities needs to be achieved. I welcome the publication by Shelter of the Housing and Wellbeing Commission report this summer that highlights the great savings that could be made to other budgets for example health, if many more of our citizens had a warm safe and secure affordable home in which to live.”
Mr Milne concluded: “I would urge people to read the Commission’s report and to attend any meetings of your community councils which may be considering affordable housing proposals and champion the cause of those in housing need.
“I would like to see more lobbying of local MSPs and MPs for more resources to be put into housing and if you are a member of a political party ensure that housing gets the highest priority in their campaign pledges for next year Scottish elections and ensure candidates know of the Commission’s report.”