Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle minutes: 29 October 2020

Minutes of the 29 October meeting of the Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle

Attendees and apologies


Sally Thomas (Joint Chair)

Laura Caven

Craig Dalzell

Craig Spence

Shona Gorman

Mark Stephens

Tony Cain

Karen Stevenson

Cassandra Dove

David Bookbinder

Nina Ballantyne

Catriona MacKean, SG

Amanda Callaghan, SG

Kuan Loh, SG

Liz Geddes, SG

Mandy Brown SG


Marsha Scott

Jon Sparkes (Joint Chair)

Cllr Elena Whitham

Tom Barclay

Nile Istephan

John Mills

John Blackwood

Hugh McClung

Shona Stephen

Janine Kellett, SG

Laura Dougan, SG

Naeem Bhatti, SG

Angela O’Brien, SG

Margaret Irving, SG

Items and actions

1. Welcome and review of last meeting 22 October

Amendment: to comments on the economics of retrofitting from last meeting.

CAS have information on energy efficiency and will provide to the group.

RIAS can help with providing an overview of the Principle 9 and would be happy to have a conversation offline.

2. Housing to 2040 – Principle 4 – Short Presentation and Discussion

Presentation given to the group to use as basis for discussion.


  • Could take that principle as argument to focus provision on social housing. 
  • Fantastic argument for maximising affordable, social housing provisions.
  • Social sector has huge role to play in this and the expansion of social housing however can’t assume that other sectors cannot contribute to this as needs to be across housing sector.
  • Social housing sector and affordability is ahead of the field and the right direction of travel.
  • Social housing sector plays important role in setting standards across housing system.
  • One element specific to social housing: negotiating over subsidy rates and should be reflected in forthcoming programme.
  • The need to promote social housing building programmes is important but trade-off between quantity, quality and location. May be less acute if more subsidy there.
  • Need to consider affordability and income
  • Require definition of affordability
  • Worth noting that JRF's MIS is still only based on what people think is an appropriate amount to spend, it doesn't map against what actual costs might be.  Comment in response to this: That's not my understanding of JRF's MIS. It is based on the cost of the things that people think people should have.
  • when we talk about "costs" we need to be clear on "costs to whom". A lot of the cost of bad or inadequate housing or housing shortages and the impact of weak housing rights fall on the public sector and in the private sector fall disproportionately on lower income households whilst the "benefits" are enjoyed (and accumulated) disproportionately by the better off.
  • really important that no one puts a number on the 2021-26 programme until the question of subsidy rates have been resolved. Even the inflation based increase that seems to be planned won’t deliver a programme of 53,000 homes.
  • need to be clear about the nature of "subsidy" and who gets it. The owner sector receives at least as much subsidy as social housing through tax exemptions.  We would need to reference data to support this.
  • need to distinguish between financial and economic subsidy, too
  • would be useful to get an economist to outline what subsidies there are
  • although the overall stats on arrears show PRS doing "better" than LA/RSL, they trended in opposite directions over lockdown. Proportion of advice on PRS arrears increased, while proportion of LA/RSL arrears decreased. 
  • Overall lack of data in the PRS and particularly data on the rent cost
  • people who have some money to invest purchase private rented property.  PRS seen as economic lever – how effect equality?
  • VAT exemption or a zero rate for retrofitting and improvements would make a significant improvement to housing stock
  • heating costs are a huge issue, particularly in older properties which even with improvements will never be as energy efficient as a new build
  • there are questions of equity in the use of resources like land or carbon through energy for example. The ability or even the right to over consume housing implies a right to use carbon at a higher rate than other households.
  • council tax is getting more important as new social homes get bigger they are moving into higher council tax bands, this is particularly so for those living in highly accessible homes built to meet specific needs.
  • Correlation across energy and whole life costs.  The build costs are a small fraction of maintenance.  Need to look at maintenance and long term fabric of the building.

3. Lived Experience Analysis – progress to date

Paper was circulated for this meeting. This has been a significant piece of work.

The key themes emerging from the different information sources included: income instability and unemployment; the availability and affordability of housing; housing standards in relation to accessibility, energy-efficiency and general quality; access to information; the prevention of homelessness and improving homelessness services; domestic abuse; isolation and loneliness and allocations processes.

The next stage is to analyse and produce the final recommendations.

Comment: there doesn’t seem to be any read-across the areas, so for instance, a good summary in the section on domestic abuse as biggest driver of homelessness for over half the population, but absolutely nothing about domestic abuse in the section on preventing homelessness.  This needs to be addressed, suspect across all the categories, but most especially for gender and domestic abuse.

4. SRAB final report and HSPC final report update

HSPC outline report was circulated last week, as no further comments received have moved to next stage of report. Will send draft report to the group in due course. 

SRAB are now working on their final report, which is beginning to take shape.

Both these reports are due to publish before the end of the year.

With regards to overall timings and outcomes, SG advised that its a fast moving and ever-changing environment. The HSPC has helped to influence and impact on the Cabinet Secretary. The great work of the group will help to inform what comes next.  SG are seeking to establish the best way forward and will update on timescales once available.

5. Equalities

COSLA have draft paper on a worked example of gypsy travellers and will share with group.

Action:  COSLA to circulate draft paper on gypsy travellers to group for their comment

6. AoB, next meeting and close

There are two further meetings scheduled although will review to see if require both as may use the time to work on finalising the report.

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