Scottish Government policies are hampering investment in housing

17th Aug 2023
David J Alexander
Scottish Government policies are hampering investment in housing - D. J. Alexander

In his latest article for The Scotsman, David Alexander discusses the effect that official policies are having on property investment levels across Scotland.

The news last week that another residential development in Glasgow has been paused because of continued doubt over the introduction of rent controls must surely be ringing alarm bells across Scotland. A company called Get Living stated that they have delayed their £200m plan to build 1500 homes on the former College Street Goods yard because of uncertainty over future government policy on rent controls.

Rick De Blaby, the chief executive of Get Living, stated that: “My shareholders include pension funds from the UK, Canada, Australia, and Holland and a lot of those are for public sector workers. When I go to them and say I want £200m to undertake a scheme in Glasgow and the fundamentals are really strong but the top-line revenue can’t be controlled by us, it’s actually controlled by Government, (and I say) can I have the same £200m to do the same project in Manchester or Leeds, it’s a really short conversation.”

Last year Lord Haughey announced that his £1bn plan to build 11,000 new homes in Glasgow would be put on hold until there was some clarity on what the Scottish Government’s position on rents would be in the future.

Indeed, there is an issue with the governments’ own building strategy. A risk register report produced for the Scottish Government in February stated that: “if there are insufficient levels of capital funding available over the current parliament then this could lead to a slowing down of delivery” adding that “this could result in a threat to the realistic prospect of delivering 110k affordable homes by 2032”.

These announcements all indicate that we are facing a major issue in the delivery of sufficient homes for the private and social rented sector as well as affordable homes for people to buy. What we desperately need is a coordinated and engaged approach across all parts of the housing sector to address the serious shortage of homes available for rent across Scotland. We need a collaborative, cross-party consensual process which ensures that everyone is working to produce more homes, in as short a period as possible, and in the places where people need properties and want to live.

There should be greater consultation between government and the construction sector, housebuilders, land developers, investors, landlords, the private and social rented sector, to build a pool of knowledge and information about what is required, when actions need to be fulfilled, and how we can all work together to improve the current enormous shortages facing tenants in Scotland. There needs to be recognition that the timescale for housebuilding is in decades rather than years and that we should be planning now for the 2030s and 2040s and not simply the next electoral cycle.

Improving the housing sector for tenants should never be an us or them situation. We are all, in the end, on the same side on this and everyone wants a dynamic, vital property sector that fully meets the needs of everyone and produces more affordable homes, on time, and where they are required.

Policies developed in isolation will never work as what is required is a concerted, broad approach with agreement from all of the participants. It is only by working in this collaborative way that we will start to resolve what is, after all, a decades long issue with underproduction of homes, and an uncoordinated and disparate approach to expanding and maintaining the social and private rented sectors.

Failure to resolve this issue quickly will create considerable problems for the generations to come as finding a home becomes increasingly untenable and the option of leaving the country for work and to live becomes a more attractive proposition for many who are currently trapped without access to a suitable property.