Housing is central to regeneration; but how often is housing at the centre of policy debates about regeneration?
There are many good reasons to read the 2011 edition of Poverty in Scotland,published by a partnership including the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland. One of them is that it provides a concise update on housing policy and practice in Scotland since 2007. Low income families have to choose between social housing and the private rented sector.
In 1981, 50% of Scottish households lived in social housing. Today, after three decades of right-to-buy and demolitions, only 24% of households live in social housing. Since 2007, there has been a modest rise in the annual average of new social housing from 4300 to 4800 – helped by the reintroduction of local authority building and a fall in right-to-buy sales. But the net result is that the social rented stock has remained static and waiting lists have continued to grow, reaching 160,000 people in 2010.
The private rented sector has been equally problematic with competition increasing from East European migrants, young professionals no longer able to afford to buy and single people considered low priority for social housing. Low income families have been dependent on housing benefit, but imminent UK caps on the value will force many low income households into poorer accommodation or even homelessness.
It is now accepted that regeneration areas need a mix of housing types and forms of ownership. Indeed, the authors remind us that the five most deprived areas identified in the 2009 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation were predominantly made up of social housing. Their priorities are:
- improving physical conditions at the bottom end of the private rented sector
- reviewing low-cost home ownership schemes
- increasing support for programmes addressing fuel poverty
- instigating a new push from local authorities to assess and support local homeless people as the legislated 2012 deadline for rehousing all unintentionally homeless people breaks the horizon.