Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle minutes: 16 July 2020

Minutes of the meeting of Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle on 16 July 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis (Joint Chair)
  • Sally Thomas, Scottish Federation of Housing Association (Joint Chair)
  • Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson
  • Katey Tabner, COSLA - Official
  • Shona Stephen, Queen Cross Housing Association (Member of Poverty and Inequality Commission)
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords
  • David Bookbinder, Glasgow West of Scotland Forum
  • Craig Dalzell, Commonweal
  • Craig Spence, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Orkney Housing Association)
  • Nile Istephan, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Eildon Housing Association)
  • Hugh McClung, Regional Networks RTO Representative
  • Shona Gorman, Regional Networks RTO Representative
  • Mark Stephens, University of Glasgow
  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • John Mills, ALACHO, Fife Council
  • Karen Stevenson, RIAS
  • Cassandra Dove, SFHA
  • Catriona MacKean, SG
  • Naeem Bhatti, SG
  • Janine Kellett, SG
  • Laura Dougan, SG
  • Amanda Callaghan, SG
  • Kuan Loh, SG
  • Angela O’Brien, SG


  • Tom Barclay, JHPDG /Wheatley
  • Marion Gibbs, SG
  • Margaret Irving, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

  • Sally Thomas and Jon Sparkes (co-chairs) introduced themselves and welcomed everyone to the second Housing System Policy Circle (HSPC) meeting. 
  • Sally listed all the papers that had been sent out to the group.
  • Submitted apologies for the meeting were noted.
  • Sally referred members to the remote participation protocol guide intended to support the meeting and help participants to make best use of the time available and the Microsoft Teams tool

All additional points made during the meeting using the chat function of Microsoft Teams are shown below in Appendix A.

2.  Note of Previous Meeting – 9 July

The note of the meeting will be amended to note Hugh McClung as Regional Networks, RTO Representative.

Sally gave a brief review summarising the issues discussed at the first HSPC meeting.  

3. Housing Circle Programme of Meetings

Sally and Jon outlined what future meetings of the group would cover and how this would be developed into a programme of work / next steps. The discussion would focus on the four questions set out the in Terms of Reference. Jon noted that work to develop Programme for Government (PfG) was now underway and the need for the group to be conscious of this.

Early meetings of the group could have a shorter term focus linked to PfG which in later meetings would then move to longer term ideas.

The Social Renewal Advisory Board (SRAB) now meeting weekly to consider PfG ideas and the work of the Housing Circle needs to co-ordinate with the overall SRAB approach.

Catriona MacKean also noted that a capital spending review is also currently underway and that work on Housing to 2040 has now restarted. Both of which will inform and influence the work of the group.

Laura Dougan noted that Ministers are to provide a steer on the Ht2040 work. HSPC will provide an opportunity to feed into that.

4.  Lived Experience Input

The group discussed how the expertise of people with lived experience could be successfully captured and contribute to HSPC’s programme of work. Below is a summary of the key points:

Jon Sparks: Change Team – Homelessness forum for those with lived experience and front line workers.

Craig Spence: Housing sector organisations and existing sector networks will include people who can tell their own story and this has contributed to the sector.

Cllr Whitham – A consultation document could be developed for Councils / RTOs to collect lived experiences of tenants living in the social housing sector.

Karen Stevenson – Housing to 2040 consultation response data will be useful.

John Blackwood – for PRS, tenants’ tenancy deposit scheme could provide a good starting point. Also the planned letter from the Minister to PRS tenants could also include details of how tenants could contact HSPC to give details of their experiences.

Shona Stephen – Community Controlled Housing Associations are well placed to contribute but we need to be clear on what we are consulting on and the timescales to allow the best opportunity to inform decision making.

Nina Ballantyne – Aggregated information from CAS client case notes.

Nile Istephan – Difficult and complex to achieve system wide. What are we trying to obtain. This should be tenure blind as there are people living in unsuitable housing in all tenures, often with complex factors at play. Disabled people and accessibility issues must be included. Also need to ensure that we capture hard to reach / seldom heard from voices.

Sally Thomas – Need to cover a broad spectrum of issues. This can be continued into the longer term.

Catriona MacKean – We need to be clear what we are consulting on and be aware that the timescales are quite tight.

John Mills – Important to secure input from the Gypsy/Traveller community. Noted on going recovery planning work and that proposals for change from this work could be brought to HSPC. This would allow us to test the network around the Policy Circle as a starting point.

Kuan Loh – Housing to 2040 travelling exhibition films. Visited 12 places across Scotland. Kuan will send a link to the films as a contribution to resources.

Jon Sparks – HSPC must draw on recent consultation work especially Housing to 2040. We need refer back to Social Renewal Advisory Board on this to avoid duplication and ensure a joined up approach.

Action: SG officials to discuss with SRAB secretariat and feed back to HSPC.

Laura Dougan- will share Housing to 2040 consultation report as soon as available.

Sally Thomas – can all comments from the Teams chat will be captured.

Action – record of comments from Teams chat function to be included with meeting note.

5. Beginning to develop group’s proposals for the Programme for Government

Jon introduced this item and confirmed that the HSPC would now consider the first of the four questions detailed within the group’s Terms of Reference:

Question One:

What can be done by government, local government and the wider housing sector in the immediate tentative aftermath of the worst phases of the coronavirus crisis to ensure everyone has access to a fair housing system that ensures everyone has a safe place to call home and that promotes a more equal, prosperous and socially-just Scotland?

In particular Targeting Programme for Government (PfG) proposals at the end of July 2020 but also other short to medium term work including the Affordable Housing Supply Programme (AHSP) and the work to develop the Housing to 2040 strategy.

What would be the “big ticket items” on the HSPC list?

John Mills - Discussion at ALACHO are currently focussed on housing supply issues and in particular affordable housing supply necessary to tackle poverty in Scotland.

Craig Spence – The need for certainty of grant funding for AHSP for at least a three year period.

David Bookbinder – Need to consider using any underspend caused by pandemic related delays for off the shelf acquisitions. Also consider repairs to poor quality privately owned property.

Mark Stephens – We need to link shorter term decision making to longer term strategic aims. Where do we want to get to? The social rented sector should move from the current safety net role to a broad role housing a wider range of people. Also have a role in raising standards / dampening rents in the PRS.

Craig Dalzell – Upgrade the current Building Regulations

Nina Ballantyne – Consider further use of Discretionary Housing payments to top up / look at barriers relating to Universal Credit.

Shona Stephen – Important to consider in the context of climate change impacts and reducing fuel poverty.

Catriona MacKean – New supply crucial. The economic impacts of housing, important to ensure that the story of what investment in housing can contribute. Also need to be aware of the potential for quicks wins which offer benefits now.

Craig Spence – consider VAT reduction / levelling to support improvement work on existing properties.

6. Next Steps

Sally thanks everyone for all their contributions and for the full and detailed discussion over the course of the meeting.

SG officials will collate all of the comments from the discussion and provide Jon and Sally with analysis of both the suggested proposals for PfG and also around gathering lived experience input.

Jon, Sally and Catriona will meet early next week to discuss.

7. AOB

As there was no other business Sally thanked everyone for participating and drew the meeting to a close.

The next meeting of HSPC will take place on Thursday 23 July at 11:00 am  using Microsoft teams. An agenda and any papers will be circulated in advance.

















Appendix A


Record of Comments from Teams Chat Function


Lived Experience Discussion


Karen Stevenson

There should be some user data from the housing 2040 consultations which provides regional context- important that we capture national variations


Kuan Loh 

Hi I am Kuan from SG Planning and Architecture - just want to add to note the ongoing National Planning Framework 4 and SPP is also a good place for the group to link with and influence the spatial policy on housing and how planning can support delivery of better housing and quality of places housing are built in.


Shona Stephen

Most Community Based Housing Associations are also well placed to engage and consult with tenants. We need to be clear what we are consulting on and when it is best to do so to ensure input has greatest opportunity to inform decision making.


Cllr Elena Whitham

    • Need to consider how the pandemic will impact design of social housing; outside space, balconies/verandas for flats and internal room sizes and activity space for working from home, digital connectivity will all be new issues to be considered as part of the redrafting of “Housing for Varying Needs”.
    • Agree with Shona....we need to know what we are asking of those with lived experience


Karen Stevenson

The Cross Party Group for Architecture and the Built Environment heard from the Co-housing organisations in 2019 that could provide benchmarking


John Blackwood

I know that Safe Deposits Scotland has a tenants user group which might be useful to link into. 



John Mills

We also need to consider direct input from Gypsy Travellers as part of our work.  There is a Group that has been supporting the work of the SG/CoSLA GT Accommodation Working Group.


Kuan Loh

On HFVN, I had previous conversations with Better Homes colleagues about the review of this, shall find out where that work sit more recently.


Jon Sparks

Good points from Nile, Shona and others. We need to be clear on what we are asking and of whom, and balance the complexity against a pragmatic approach of what is possible in the time allowed.


Cllr Elena Whitham

John is right G/T input is vital


Laura Dougan

Sally, to keep things on track time-wise, I was just hoping to say that we're working hard to do the analysis of the Housing to 2040 consultation - as soon as that is available, we will share it with the group


Cllr Elena Whitham

I agree there will be intersection between circles....need to work smarter with consultation to minimise duplication.


Discussion on Gathering Ideas for Housing Circle First Question - What can be done by government, local government and the wider housing sector in the

immediate tentative aftermath of the worst phases of the coronavirus crisis to ensure

everyone has access to a fair housing system that ensures everyone has a safe place to call home and that promotes a more equal, prosperous and socially-just Scotland?

(Targeting Programme for Government proposals at the end of July 2020)


Nina comment

Is the aim to focus on PfG-feasible policies today with broader/more ambitious policies at a later date or bringing everything to the group today?


John Mills

    • Can't look beyond maximising supply
    • Focus on social supply and social rented



Craig Spence comment

We can’t build new homes overnight - need certainty of grant/funding levels for a minimum of the next 3 years as urgently as possible


David Bookbinder

    • Next 3 to 6 months, with underspend provides an opportunity to buy-back.  Lead from Ministers on how to do that will be helpful.


Mark Stephens

    • Housing supply to be linked to short term to longer term strategic aims.
    • Social crucial role to move from providing safety net to raising standards and rent affordability
    • Forbearance in the PRS on moratorium ending and what that means as furlough support ends.  The link to DHPs.


Nina Ballantyne

    • DHPs to have top up mechanisms - if UC can't sustain rent in PRS and also in social sector
    • Short term let and EE regulations have been paused and to be put back on the agenda.  Condition in PRS sector behind social and need to ensure why supply in some areas not available.


Hugh McClung

We mustn’t be short sighted on strategic building of social housing. We require to consider a long term plan for social housing based on two factors:


Shona Stephen

Increasing numbers of social rented affordable housing is key to reducing poverty and has to be top of this list.  In the short term it should be bringing stock into the social housing sector through acquisitions and conversions.  A short medium and long term strategy consisting of acquisition, conversion and new build is essential.  Also, taking into account changes to lifestyle through Covid and specific housing need.  Climate change impact is crucial and reducing energy costs.


Katey Tabner

In looking at recovery from the pandemic and longer term priority is needed around access to suitable temporary accommodation and follow on settled accommodation, especially with increasing focus upon Housing First within HARSAG II – we would support the proposal as made by SFHA, CIH and Shelter Scotland to see further funding for affordable homes. We currently have over 13,000 households in temporary accommodation – a figure set to increase in coming months and this issue primarily relates back to supply. This would also require adequate resourcing of the AHSP and carryover of any underused funding from Q1/2 of 2020. Available housing stock also needs to be cognisant of varying options, costs, and quality and equality impacts.


Karen Stevenson comment

The climate agenda must be our focus.  Our existing resources are key to this solution alongside new build.



Nina Ballantyne

In the resilience chairs meeting with the minister, Kevin Stewart has made it clear there shouldn't be an issue with acquisitions just now assuming they're the right home in the right place. Elena and Katey can probably speak a bit more on that as well. 


The impact of other policies on the availability of affordable homes must be considered. The lift in LBTT and extension of help-to-buy supports jobs in the housing market and construction industry, but entrenches inequality and prioritises those able to buy now, which are a small minority. 


Craig Spence

It is vital that the most rural, remote and economic/poverty disadvantaged areas are a focus of real energy in terms of prioritising spend and solutions in building/refurbing vital homes - especially social rented.


Hugh McClung

Experiences from post Covid19 and what demands there were

Looking at existing statistics demands as a projection for future supply.


Craig Dalzell

The single highest priority for housing change for me is to upgrade building regulations. Anything built today that has an expected lifespan longer than 25 years should be Green New Deal compliant or it WILL need to be retrofitted later (which is daft).


Next on that list is as others have said - housing supply. I'd point people towards our paper Good Houses for All (it's in the reading list) for a detailed proposal on building GND compliant public rental houses using the Scottish National Investment Bank (happy to give a quick summary here if there's time)


John Mills comment

Agree Shona.  Greening the new and existing housing stock across tenures is an opportunity for economic growth


Kuan comment

Affordability not just about construction costs,  rents or price of property but the whole life costing and the "cost" to the environment be part of the consideration.


Katey Tabner comment

In terms of HARSAG we need to ensure that we have the infrastructure to catch up – specifically points 50 and 43.

Communities and Place: Recognising that Investment in decent, affordable homes and essential local infrastructure could help address poverty and create new jobs in areas hit hardest by unemployment. There have been significant developments since 2014 around community participation within local decision making. There is scope here to move beyond ‘consultation’ and engage tenants in participation on local decisions and communities in local planning decisions. Participatory budgeting and deliberative democracy as seen via the Community Choices Fund and Governance Review – Democracy Matters conversations shows the benefits of community engagement for local government. These benefits could also be extended to tenants, by extending tenant participation processes. Extending tenant and community participation within the design of homes, communities and places more broadly would allow for local issues to be addressed in response to local and individual needs.


Shona Stephen

Housing for 2040 is still the future strategy so should we be reviewing it through a Covid lens rather than starting from scratch? And using the opportunity to ensure the 2040 document better reflects the poverty and inequality agenda.


Craig Dalzell

One slightly more blue sky idea that we've proposed for the immediate crisis - Mortgage to Public Rent conversions. Allow home owners (occupiers and landlords) who are in danger of foreclosure to convert their house to public rental (the bank owning the mortgage would be expected to take a significant haircut on the mortgage). The occupier (owner or tenant) would be offered indefinite tenure and the option to buy back, but if they no longer need the dwelling, it could remain in the public rental pool.


Nina Ballantyne

In terms of feasible policies for PfG, CAS would like to see the promised short term lets regulation and energy efficiency standards PRS regulation come into force sooner, rather than later. The former contributes to the squeeze on supply in some parts of Scotland and if some hosts are forced by the regulation to exit, then the link to acquisitions is key. The latter links into health concerns both COVID and non COVID specific, as well as hopefully lowering fuel bills for tenants. 


Katey Tabner

In response to Shona's comment, COSLA and local government are prioritising vulnerable communities throughout the recovery process. Supportive of this approach.


Nile Istephan

Completely support the comments about long term supply issues as being central to a better functioning housing system. Are there other short term stimulus measures that are sensible just now - such an expansion in green retrofitting and addressing adaptations needs - meeting need and creating economic activity


Nina Ballantyne

Would love to see mortgage to rent in place of foreclosure wherever possible. In terms of DHPs, we're conscious that UC housing element doesn't cover most PRS rents and so long as it remains at that level and a huge proportion of the population is reliant on it, DHPs will be crucial to maintain tenancies. Access and top-ups may be required. 



John Mills

Craig, Agree that MTR needs to be maximised as a response to unemployment, with occupiers offered a SST.  Option to buy back would not be legal as RTB is now abolished.


John Blackwood

Think it is important not to be blind-sided about extending the emergency legislation on eviction at the risk of ignoring the real issue of helping tenants find money to pay their rent. Agree we need to look at DHP and even create new welfare benefits for those at risk of losing their home. 


Kuan Loh

Important to think of quality of housing we build now will still be there in 2040 and we should start now to ensure we get closer to be able to achieve Scotland's net zero ambition by 2045.


Mark Stephens

We have experience of mortgage rescue schemes from previous downturns. Various evaluations available.


Craig Dalzell

John: We don't support a full return to RTB but would be in favour of a specific exemption only for the owner who converted their mortgage to public rent. I'm keen that folk struggling through this crisis are helped but are not scared off by the prospect of losing their home*


Nina Ballantyne

Principle preventative point is on seeing missed bills as an opportunity to provide support, not harassment, and to join up with all other creditors and/or support orgs in getting people what they need to manage.


Shona Stephen

I'm not sure that it would be fiscally prudent to subsidise MTR and then RTB for the same property


Karen Stevenson

Levelling VAT will improve care and repair, supporting improvements to existing housing and therefore supporting people in their homes


Nile Istephan

Karen - really important point and could be a quick impact measure


Craig Spence

Yes - a limited time (2 year?) VAT exemption or 5% cap for upgrading properties 


Shona Stephen

VAT reduction would be ideal as likely to be a number of empty commercial premises post Covid which could convert to housing.

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