Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle minutes: 10 September 2020

Minutes of the 10 September meeting of the Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle.

Attendees and apologies


  • Jon Sparkes (Joint Chair)
  • Sally Thomas (Joint Chair)
  • Cllr Elena Whitham
  • Laura Cavan
  • Tom Barclay
  • Craig Spence
  • Shona Gorman
  • Mark Stephens
  • Cassandra Dove
  • Hugh McClung
  • David Bookbinder
  • Marsha Scott
  • Tony Cain
  • Mhoraig Green
  • Ashleigh Simpson
  • Catriona MacKean, SG
  • Naeem Bhatti, SG
  • Angela O’Brien, SG
  • Laura Dougan, SG
  • Kuan Loh, SG
  • Margaret Irving, SG
  • Liz Geddes, SG


  • John Mills
  • Nina Ballantyne

Items and actions

1. Welcome and review of last meeting – agree note

Everyone was welcomed to the meeting. The minutes of the last meeting were agreed.

2. Phase 1 recommendations – sign off

Intention is to use the phase 1 recommendations as the template for the practical actions of the work we are doing and draw together with the 2040 work.

There have been some final comments and it is our intention to have the recommendations signed off at this stage. It is however a living document and will continue to change. Thanks noted to Cassandra for her work on the document.

Points noted during the discussion:

  • Does not fully recognise gender.
  • Don’t need political clearance at this stage but will talk to COSLA at a later stage.
  • Need to add "island proofing" to the work around equalities.
  • Some members noted they would like to submit further comments and will do so by email.

3. Housing to 2040 – First steps

Jon noted that the group has identified the most relevant principles. The 4 top principles are:

Principle 15: “Everyone has the right to an adequate home”

Principle 9: Decisions around the quality, location and utilisation of existing stock and new build should be consistent with the target for Scotland's emissions to be net zero carbon by 2045.

Principle 4: Housing provision should be informed by whole life economic costs and benefits.

Principle 11: Local communities should be empowered to respond to housing need in their area, as part of a coherent regional economic approach (creating and maintaining jobs) and supported by provision of the right infrastructure.

These will form part of the SRAB presentation. Jon shared the presentation with the group.

Discussion picked up on the following points:

  • If human rights is top of the list we need to identify where we are failing. Use published national statistics and carry out comprehensive human rights audit.
  • Housing outcomes are not dependent on just the housing system but also how we tax housing, land and property.
  • Consider the meaning of “adequate” which means warm, safe and affordable but this lacks ambition.
  • Additional challenges for rural and islands where moving to net zero or EEESH standards works against fuel poverty. Those in off gas grid areas have the most expensive fuel costs, if you remove gas this will increase fuel poverty in some areas.
  • It is important that these cross cutting issues are clearly reported/defined in the outputs from the SRAB. Housing, Health, Equalities, Communities, Economy and Place all intersect.
  • The UN's guide on implementing the right to an adequate home has a 16 step process to achieving this which may be helpful.
  • Be aware of the differences between UN and SG definitions of the right to an adequate home.
  • Regional networks - principle 11 - localised sounding boards could be set up to look at housing development and strategy.
  • Principle 9 – private housing is not explicit so good to make sure this is included.
  • Consistent funding/investment for housing is essential as is creating parity with other key policy areas.​
  • A human rights audit will identify "warm and dry" as the area where our housing most frequently fails to meet the standards it should.  It will also flag wider issues of condition, accessibility, security and the risk of homelessness and affordability.
  • Homes should be affordable for the tenant as well as warm and dry.
  • There is a difference between existing rights and people's ability to access them.  There's a need for education/awareness raising, but also a degree of enforcement.
  • Focus on energy efficiency in PRS where there is a particular risk of costs being passed onto tenants.
  • ​The definition of “safe” needs to reflect children's and women's experiences of domestic abuse and their current situation of having to choose between safety and homelessness.
  • ​Recognise that the main driver of poor condition housing is age of housing stock.

4. Lived experience – delivery

Sally told the group there is now a final version of a set of questions aimed at getting direct feedback on lived experience though intermediary organisations and also from individual participants.

The group were asked to use their networks and feedback by the 16 October deadline.

SG will be looking at EQIA. Important to be able to apply a lens over the questions we are asking. We have a number of prompt documents looking at equalities such as Covid-19 experience, Brexit, domestic abuse, ethnic minority, poverty and the welfare system. These would be useful documents to use to look at the principles selected by the group.

The group commented at follows:

  • Scottish Poverty Truth are gathering housing related feedback and community listening events are also providing a range of feedback.
  • CAS is using their existing evidence base from interactions in the bureaux to contribute to the gathering of evidence on lived experience.
  • A telephone survey, for example, is not a safe mechanism for women and children living with domestic abuse. Have workers support capture of lived experience via facilitation.
  • Children are invisible in discussions. Women’s decisions are based on children. We need to think of children when looking at housing as they should not be an afterthought.
  • EQIA is planned as part of SRAB. There is a line between work of circle and the board.
  • Will have Equalities as an agenda item for the next meeting so we can put an agreed plan in place.
  • We need to see how policy is changed as a result of equalities proofing. The process is the impact assessment.
  • How inequalities intersect is hugely important. GIRFEC is essential in housing but not widely recognised.
  • PfG has some specific commitments around children's rights.
  • There has been some discussion of children and young people in the Financial Security circle and it has been a focus in the Low Pay circle too.
  • We have a significant shortage of social housing. The active rationing through allocations policies inevitably disadvantages some groups and that issue can only be addressed though an increase in supply.​
  • The cross cutting policy circle has some family related recommendations as well. The SRAB has an important role in connecting these up.
  • Orkney LA have been looking at below-tolerable-standard properties in private ownership - particularly empty ones - and considering options from incentivising through Empty Homes Officer to renovate, through to potentially using compulsory purchase to bring in and renovate for social rented.
  • ​We need to understand the relationship between broader inequalities beyond the protected characteristics.

SG noted that the next steps on this will be challenging and complex. The recommendations need to actually tackle inequalities whilst connecting up the thinking on inequalities in housing with wider policy approaches. SG will think about how we can support the Circle with this work. Equalities proofing is at the centre of SG equalities policies and guidance.

Sally noted that levels of understanding will vary and we will need to “level up” as a group as we move along. For next week’s meeting there will be a further agenda item on equalities issues and this will be prepared, planned and with papers to support the discussion.

5. Social Renewal Advisory Board meeting 10 September

Sally informed the group that Jon had now circulated the presentation. This afternoon’s presentation is intended to represent the work of HSPC at strategic level and will cover the draft headline / key recommendations. A lot of work has been done in a short time (thanks noted to Cassandra). The session today will begin to draw together HSPC’s work with that of the other circles and is being delivered together with the Community and Place Circle. This session is the start of a drawing together of the work of all circles so that the SRAB will end up with one set of priorities.

Jon reiterated that the purpose of the session is not to present the final recommendations of HSPC to the SRAB but to stimulate discussion in the Board and across the circles. The presentation is a snapshot of where we are now.

6. AoB, next meetings and close.

The next meeting will take place on 17 September at 11am.

Back to top