Housing to 2040: Strategic Board minutes - March 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 22 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Shona Robison, MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (Co-Chair)
  • Councillor Maureen Chalmers, Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) (Co-Chair)
  • Patrick Harvie, MSP and Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights
  • Sean Neill, Director Local Government, Housing and Planning, Scottish Government
  • Michael Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Housing Regulator
  • Caroline Elgar, Policy Manager, Scottish Association of Landlords (attended as a substitute for John Blackwood)
  • Carolyn Lochhead, Director of External Affairs, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) (attended as a substitute for Sally Thomas)
  • John Mills, Co-Chair, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO)
  • Jane Wood, Chief Executive, Homes for Scotland
  • Colin Stewart, Chair, North of Scotland Regional Network 
  • Callum Chomczuk, National Director (Scotland), Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Chris Birt, Associate Director for Scotland, Joseph Rowntree Foundation


  • John Blackwood, Chief Executive, Scottish Association of Landlords 
  • Sally Thomas, Chief Executive, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations 

Also in attendance

  • Catriona MacKean, Scottish Government 
  • Laura Dougan, Scottish Government
  • Stephen O’Connor, Scottish Government
  • Mike Callaghan, COSLA

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Cabinet Secretary (Co-Chair) welcomed members to the first meeting of the Housing to 2040 Strategic Board and provided some opening remarks, highlighting the opportunities presented by Housing to 2040 and the aim that the broad base of expertise on the board be a forum to think creatively and collaboratively. The Cabinet Secretary then invited Councillor Chalmers to also provide opening remarks as Co-Chair before inviting attendees to introduce themselves. Councillor Chalmers explained the role of the Community and Wellbeing Board which she chairs and reiterated the value of having a long term strategy to meet the many challenges in the housing sector.

Terms of teference

The Cabinet Secretary invited members to discuss and agree the draft terms of reference for the board which were issued to members in advance of the meeting. These were agreed subject to increasing the number of meetings of the board from two to three times per year for the time being, with a view to reviewing this frequency at a later date. The Cabinet Secretary noted that the agreed terms of reference and meeting notes would be published on the Scottish Government website.


  • Scottish Government (SG) officials to update and publish terms of reference

Housing to 2040 delivery and strategic challenges

The Cabinet Secretary invited Catriona MacKean, Deputy Director, Better Homes Division, Scottish Government to update the board on Housing to 2040 delivery as well as the strategic challenges facing the housing sector, such as a challenging economic context and a changing regulatory and legislative environment. 

Board members agreed that there are a number of strategic challenges currently faced by the housing sector in delivering the Housing to 2040 Vision and that the board will have an important role in seeking solutions to those challenges. The focus of the board’s work will be on what actions are needed across the sector to address them.

Changing and evolving to achieve the Housing to 2040 vision

The Cabinet Secretary offered some initial observations on Catriona’s presentation before inviting Councillor Chalmers to also share some initial thoughts. The importance of getting the balance right between identifying shorter term solutions while recognising the longer term route to delivering effective and sustainable resolution was noted. As was identifying what is possible within current parameters and sphere of influence to deliver Housing to 2040.

The Cabinet Secretary then invited comments and observations from members on the issues raised in the presentation and ideas on how the housing sector and government can adapt and evolve to achieve the vision set out in Housing to 2040 in light of strategic challenges to delivery.

Jane Wood noted that consideration of planning was essential and also that good data was required across the piece. The Cabinet Secretary noted that the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) sets out long term national planning policies and agreed that collaboration on data would be beneficial.

John Mills welcomed the 20 year plan but noted that the last two years had heavily impacted on the sector, with the operating environment now different than that in place when the strategy was published. Unlocking supply continues to be key and there is work to do in the short term, as well as the longer term, to address current challenges and assess priorities in light of that. 

Callum Chomczuk noted that it was important to build professionalism and skills within the housing sector to deliver on the ambitions and challenges of Housing to 2040. Callum also noted the importance of prioritisation.

Chris Birt noted challenges to maintain Scotland’s position on tackling poverty and that housing creation in the short-term was crucial. He noted that the Ukraine situation shows how there is little room for manoeuvre in the system. Chris also noted that data was crucial for targeting poverty and that there are gaps in what we know about how housing policy addresses inequality and poverty.

Michael Cameron highlighted immediate challenges in managing existing housing stock and addressing new supply, and also noted capacity issues within the social housing sector. The Cabinet Secretary stressed the need to keep sight of the 110,000 new homes target but should also consider what can be done to build on the work of the Task and Finish Group on empty homes, including data requirements, to support supply work.

Carolyn Lochhead emphasised the challenge of prioritisation and noted that increasing costs were a major issue in the sector with some SFHA members moving away from developing noting many were keen to develop, but unable to. Carolyn noted that more straightforward planning system/NPF4 could help as would looking at different ways to bring in financial investment. She underlined the importance of involving tenants in planning work in the social sector.

Colin Stewart highlighted the impact of aims within Housing to 2040 on cost to tenants and that whole housing costs should be considered not just rents.

Caroline Elgar noted that 40% of Scottish Association of Landlord members were considering reducing their private rented portfolios over the next few years. There was an opportunity to identify exit strategies including better routes to sell properties (including occupied) to local authorities and to explore opportunities for people to invest in financial investment products which could supply social housing development. John Mills noted that some of this work had been undertaken before and could be looked at afresh as part of considerations. This was supported by Councillor Chalmers who noted that local solutions can be shared to see if they can be adapted and applied in other areas. Patrick Harvie cautioned that data only identifies the position now and noted the need to take a longer-term view which accepts there will be uncertainties and un-planned for challenges such as those seen in recent years.


  • the Cabinet Secretary asked SG officials to explore incentives for private landlords who wish to exit the sector and to update the board
  • John Mills to share examples with the board on previous work undertaken around private landlords exiting the sector and the links with supporting social housing development

In summarising, the Cabinet Secretary noted that the discussion had generated a lot of ideas and that many of the answers and solutions can come from the members of the board to begin to shape a plan collaboratively. The Cabinet Secretary noted that 3 emerging themes were identified and suggested that these form the pillars of a workplan for the board: 

  • data – sharing what is available across the sector and considering options to address gaps
  • prioritisation – to gain a better sense of the landscape to give guidance and reassurance to the sector on how we can phase work over the short, medium and longer term
  • innovation – to help meet the challenges of a 20 year implementation plan, options for innovative practice will be key


  • SG officials to produce a draft plan in collaboration with members and to make available for discussing at next board meeting.

Any other business


  • SG officials to circulate the membership list of the official level Housing to 2040 steering group to members
  • SG officials to consider the best communication channels for sharing board working papers

Next meeting

As part of the Co-Chair rotation, Councillor Chalmers would chair the next meeting which would be held in June before Parliament’s summer recess. The objective will be to agree the bFoard’s workplan and process for taking forward over the summer.


  • SG officials to identify suitable date for next meeting in consultation with Co-Chairs and members.
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