Housing Affordability Working Group minutes: November 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 2 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Professor Kenneth Gibb (Chair), UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), and Professor of Housing Economics (Urban Studies) University of Glasgow
  • Callum Chomczuk, Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Sher Peek, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers
  • Shona Mitchell, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • David Bookbinder, Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations
  • Lisa Borthwick, Shelter Scotland
  • Aoife Deery, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Dr Madhu Satsangi, School of Social and Political Sciences, Glasgow University
  • Emma Saunders, Living Rent (observer)
  • Rebekah Stroud, Crisis
  • Tony Cain, Acting Senior Housing Manager Clackmannanshire Council
  • Dr John Boyle, Rettie and Co.
  • Dr Gillian Young, Newhaven Research Scotland
  • Bel Ingham, Private Rented Sector tenant representative
  • Craig Sanderson, Guest speaker
  • Kyna Morgan, Private Rented Sector tenant representative
  • Erica Young, Citizens Advice Scotland, Observer
  • Helen Shaw, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Colin Stewart, Social Rented Sector Tenant representative


  • Mike Callaghan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords
  • Professor Angela O'Hagan, Dept of Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Sean Baillie, Living Rent

Also in attendance

  • Janine Kellett, Scottish Government
  • Andrew Weild, Scottish Government
  • Nicole Pettigrew, Scottish Government
  • Joseph Jobling, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair, Ken Gibb (KG), welcomed all members to the call. As there are some new members of the group, KG asked members to each give a short introduction.

Previous minutes and actions

KG advised that most actions from the previous working group meeting have been completed, including the set-up of a shared library (eRDM Connect). He advised the group that they can send anything in that they think may be relevant to the group and Nicole Pettigrew (NP) can add it into the shared library. KG asked the group if they had anything else to add on the minutes or actions from the previous meeting. No one had anything else to add.

KG advised that at a Holyrood cross-party group meeting he had attended, Homes for Scotland enquired about being part of the working group. Janine Kellett thanked Ken for flagging this and said she will discuss this with him separately.


  • NP – add working group meeting minutes and agendas to eRDM Connect
  • KG – send Joseph Rowntree study to Nicole who can add it into eRDM Connect
  • JK – speak with Ken regarding Homes for Scotland

Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Bill and consultation analysis on A New Deal for Tenants

KG discussed the analysis report of responses to the consultation on the New Deal for Tenants by Craigforth. He explained that the report contains seven pages of evidence summarising several hundred of respondent’s comments on their individual experience. He advised that there is a short summary in the executive summary but if anyone would like to read the full section which is relevant to the working group then the question on ‘affordability’ begins on page 143. KG asked if anyone had any thoughts or reflections about the impact that the new legislation has on the working group’s discussions.

Madhu Satsangi said that the contractor of the focus groups will need to make sure discussions are not dominated by it.

Aoife Deery commented that the Scottish Government is to report to parliament every three months on how the emergency legislation is working, so this gives the group the opportunity to discuss the further evidence that will need to be gathered by the Scottish Government to be able to do this.

KG advised that CaCHE (Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence) have been discussing what research will be appropriate in finding out what affect the rent freeze is having.

David Bookbinder said that the initial ministerial motivation with the rent freeze was to help people afford their rent rather than to do with wider issues of landlord investment. He questioned whether affordability is simply about what a household or person can afford or do we see it in a wider spectrum as a balance between affordability, investment and other things.

Sher Peek queried if when discussing affordability are we looking at means testing tenants and people in the private rented sector (PRS) to see what each person’s affordability level is. If so, then that review must come from the benefit system and conversations with the UK government.

Emma Saunders said that for Living Rent, there is another perspective. She said social rents are not set for an individual tenant but depend on the quality and number of the houses owned by the social landlord. She commented that the rent freeze should instead be seen as a way of setting rents and then developing what this would mean in all sectors.

A discussion followed about the aims of the temporary legislation and whether they will be achieved. JK advised that while the primary aim of legislation is to protect tenants, there is, of course, recognition that landlords may be impacted. This is why there are safeguards included to cover specific circumstances faced by landlords. TC believes it is unclear that the legislation will reduce evictions overall.

Emma Saunders agreed.

TC highlighted the importance of the human right to adequate housing and said that anyone facing housing stress will also face other issues: if housing is inadequate or unaffordable then everything will also be worse for the individuals living in the inadequate or unaffordable housing.

KG advised that there will be struggling homeowners . He said that if the economy moves into recession then people may have more negative equity and be less able to move. He discussed the possibility of including homeowners in the focus groups.

KG said that the consultation analysis on the New Deal for Tenants has interesting points around the idea that housing costs should not impinge on how you can afford other things. He stated that the striking thing about the consultation document was that the majority of written in comments seemed to be in favour of some sort of residual income measure. However, there were some who were in favour of a cost to income ratio.  

John Boyle said that Rettie and Co. undertook primary research last year looking at housing need and demand across one of Scotland’s strategic planning areas and found that 183,000 households were in some form of housing need Households struggling financially were defined as those paying over 50% of their income in housing costs and stating that they were not coping financially.

TC made a point that the working group should also be thinking about the wider impact of housing costs and if a significant part of the population is paying between 30% and 50% of income on rent then how does that affect wider economic activity.

Guest speaker: Craig Sanderson

Craig Sanderson, member of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, delivered a presentation on Affordable Housing. Craig’s presentation discussed the importance of affordable social housing as a key factor in a nation’s economy, health and wellbeing. He said that it is important for Scottish Government to get back on track with their target of building 110,000 houses with 70% for social renting. Craig believes that there is much more than just rent costs which need to be looked at and that there is a need for a database of all properties with details of rent levels and the condition of the property. He was clear that he believes the focus must be on how many social houses are being built rather than how many affordable houses.

John asked a question about the degree to which housing associations had been using European Investment Bank (EIB) funding prior to Brexit. Craig responded that while he didn’t have data, it was his opinion that EIB funding could have been very important to RSL development.

Tony said there is a serious problem with a lack of data on rents in the PRS.

Lisa Borthwick said that one of the points that stood out to her was the use of average rather than median rent to define what is affordable.

Craig said that in 1975 there were no grants and wonders if the best way may be to take away all grants and allow landlords to develop a rent that covers all costs. If this is unaffordable to tenants then tenants should then get a sufficient amount of support to enable them to pay their rent.


NP – Add presentation to the group’s private shared drive

Focus group discussion

KG advised the group that they were sent a paper draft brief of what the focus group may look like. KG said that it could be done in four focus group sessions, with three initial groups and one final one to agree recommendations.

KG then discussed who should be included in the focus groups. He said we will get as many protected characteristics as possible such as age, gender, household size, people of care experience etc. but also tenure and people struggling to pay mortgages and maintain homes as poorer outright owners. He asked the group if there was anything missing or anything that needs to change.

Comments, contributions and suggestions

  • if the brief is to be extended to cover low income homeowners then the kind of issues that are likely to surface will be slightly different in this sector to rental and that there is a case for separation on this basis
  • it is important to look at the composition of the groups and what we’re looking to achieve – particularly for protected characteristics
  • the group might want to consider having subgroups in the focus groups that pick up on those households, although this might make the exercise more complex and therefore more expensive
  • a combination of online and in-person focus groups should be considered - online groups can be especially helpful for reaching rural areas. In-person groups help avoid digital exclusion
  • will the focus groups be looking at solutions or just conclusions? For example, will the groups be expected to discuss policy solutions

KG advised that it will be difficult to cover as many of the categories as possible but we must rely on the contractor to do the best job they can. He added that one of the attractive things about having the groups online is that there may be the option to record the meeting which could be of great use to the group. He believes that it is reasonable for the group to consider financial incentives for the focus groups.

KG advised he thinks it would be great for the working group to address the same core questions as the focus groups.

Gill Young said she thinks there is a broad consensus in the group that affordability should be defined in relation to incomes and what is being consumed, as opposed to being defined in relation to market prices and rents. She added that this means we may have to think carefully on issues that underpin affordability, including cost, dwelling size and location – something she hasn’t seen being touched on yet.

Tony Cain added that he thinks this will lead the conversations into over-consumption of housing as a choice and the point at which housing costs become unaffordable.


Members - can email Nicole Pettigrew any additional thoughts on the focus groups.

Future horizon for the group

KG finished by thanking the group for their attendance and said he appreciated the quality of discussion as well as the presentation from Craig. He hopes that when the group meets again in February there will be some findings to discuss, and the group will be asked to provide their answers on the focus group questions which will be given out a few weeks before the next meeting.


Ken and SG colleagues – arrange next meeting and send out focus group questions for working group to complete.

Back to top