Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle minutes: 23 July 2020

Minutes of the 23 July meeting of the Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle.

Attendees and apologies


  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis (Joint Chair)
  • Sally Thomas, Scottish Federation of Housing Association (Joint Chair)
  • Katey Tabner, COSLA - Official
  • Shona Stephen, Queen Cross Housing Association (Member of Poverty and Inequality Commission)
  • Hugh McClung, Regional Networks RTO Representative
  • Shona Gorman, Regional Networks RTO Representative
  • Mark Stephens, University of Glasgow
  • Karen Stevenson, RIAS
  • Cassandra Dove, SFHA
  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Tom Barclay, JHPDG / Wheatley Group

SG Officials

  • Catriona MacKean
  • Angela O’Brien
  • Margaret Irving


  • Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson
  • David Bookbinder, Glasgow West of Scotland Forum
  • Craig Spence, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Orkney Housing Association)
  • Nile Istephan, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Eildon Housing Association)
  • John Mills, ALACHO, Fife Council
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords
  • Craig Dalzell, Commonweal
  • Naeem Bhatti, SG
  • Amanda Callaghan, SG
  • Kuan Loh, SG
  • Janine Kellett, SG
  • Laura Dougan, SG
  • Marion Gibbs, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome

Jon welcomed everyone to the meeting. He said that today’s meeting had two objectives, one to turn the content of discussion on lived experience into actions and identify questions and the second to decide what the group wants to put forward for Programme for Government.

The comments have been divided into 3 main areas around three questions.

  • How many homeless do we want (none)?
  • How many affordable homes are needed to house everyone who needs one?
  • How we identify the key elements to achieving the ambition of vibrant, mixed, prosperous, cohesive, adaptable communities?

2. Review of last meeting

Jon confirmed that two sets of notes will be produced – a set of minutes which will be published and a comprehensive note which can be used for the group's discussion.

Updates to the previous minutes: add in more input from RTOs and community councils at ground level; ensure comments in the chat function are recorded as noted.

The group were asked for their reflections on the previous meeting. Comments included looking at how design element plays a part for the future and the need for a greater understanding of the different types of tenure and using the right description of affordability, perhaps looking at the total cost of the home.

3. Further discussion on HSPC proposals for the Programme for Government / Question One from Terms of Reference

Jon asked the group to consider how we move to producing healthier, more productive communities.

Members contributed the following comments:

  • We need to look at the long term measures of supply as what exists currently does not address homelessness or the demand for social housing. We need enforceable policy to produce the amount of housing to cope with the demand.
  • Important to highlight that the work of this group will feed into housing to 2040. Reconsider the Housing to 2040 principals to make sure they are still the right ones in a post Covid world.
  • Covid has highlighted different and unmet needs. Rather than numbers or supply it is the type of home, accessibility and place that need to factor into the discussion.
  • Funding support during Covid was directed to what people actually needed. Recognise that many households need a great deal of support to sustain the tenancy and links to wider support, job prospects and transport.
  • The housing approach and policy support has been geared towards creating balanced and settled communities but what consideration will there be in operational reality terms of, for example, a shift to 80-90% allocation to a specific class of housing need. There needs to be flexibility to take into account local discretion.
  • The number of homeless presentations is equal to the number of empty homes that exist. Improve existing stock using tax incentives and short term let legislation.
  • Need to find ways to have good social housing next to good private renting next to good owner occupier housing. Diversity of households is key. We have to use the levers we have such as the planning system, building standards and fit our recommendations around this vision.
  • Important that we have participation of communities. We can learn from the participatory work to get tenants and the community to work together on this. RIAS Chartered architects can support local communities and support with housing solutions- how we bring skills together should be encouraged through this process.  
  • As well as dealing with short term immediate reality of households in temporary accommodation we also have to consider SG plans for homelessness.
  • Need to build to meet the needs of existing communities rather than looking purely at numbers. We are building for profit rather than to serve the needs of the area. Land banking pushes up the price of housing and ultimately affects the number of houses that can be built.

Jon brought the discussion to an end noting that the group will have an opportunity to build on the comments at the next meeting.  

4. Update on lived experience input

Sally opened the session noting that we want a self-regulating housing system rather than a market driven system. We are engaging in the transition process which needs to include lived experience and there were a number of good ideas from the last meeting and this has been captured in the form of 4 questions.

  • What are the most important 3 to 5 actions we need to take now?
  • How can we best ensure access a housing system that promotes equality, prosperity and social justice?
  • In the longer-term what does a good housing system look like?
  • What are the main policies, investments and processes that will enable us to achieve this?’

Sally asked the group if the questions were right for this purpose and did they consider this the best approach.

The group comments were as follows:

  • Need to specify who the “we” is in the questions. E.g. everyone in Scotland or government or landlord? Not all will have had experience of engaging in this way so need to be really explicit. If we are selecting people with particular lived experience we should ensure the questions are directed at them. Important to make sure the language is accessible to everyone and remove any technical references or jargon.
  • Consider involving the SHR National Panel.
  • Need to reform how we allocate houses as people tend to be put into boxes for allocations, e.g. disabled, homeless, released from prison. The 2014 act required LAs look at allocation systems to ensure diversity and equality for everyone – that needs to be tested to see if it is working.
  • Tenants across Scotland want good quality social housing. Housing to 2040 needs to build on the information available to ensure we have the type, style and design needed to meet the demand.
  • ​Return to/ refresh creative solutions to retrofit and new housing design models that have been developed in recent years.
  • Should also take into account the UN reports on the work still to be done to ensure everyone has access to adequate housing, and also how that could be implemented.  and
  • Emergency legislation is already in place for tenants to prevent evictions. Review and potential extension will be considered when Parliament comes back in August but this is still is a live discussion between Ministers

Sally asked the group to send any other thoughts by email. She confirmed the work on lived experience will start now and continue over the next few weeks.

5. Next Steps

Jon and Sally will be discussing progress with the other policy circle groups. The next steps will be building on the conversations to develop meaningful suggestions for the Programme for Government.

6. AoB and Close

There was no other business.

Sally and Jon thanked everyone for joining the meeting and contributing to the discussion.

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 30 July at 11.30 am.

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