Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle minutes: 30 July 2020

Minutes of the 30 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)
  • Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson
  • 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
  • Cassandra Dove, SFHA
  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • David Bookbinder, Glasgow West of Scotland Forum
  • Craig Spence, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Orkney Housing Association)
  • Craig Dalzell, Commonweal
  • Karen Stevenson, RIAS

SG Officials

  • Catriona MacKean
  • Angela O’Brien
  • Margaret Irving
  • Liz Geddes
  • Naeem Bhatti
  • Kuan Loh
  • Laura Dougan


  • Tom Barclay, JHPDG / Wheatley Group
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords
  • Nile Istephan, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Eildon Housing Association)
  • John Mills, ALACHO, Fife Council
  • Marion Gibbs
  • Janine Kellett
  • Amanda Callaghan

Items and actions

1. Welcome and review of last meeting

Sally noted attendance, confirmed agenda items and listed the papers sent out for this meeting. An amendment was noted for the minutes of the last meeting. Point 4 on self-regulation and parliament returning in August and PfG is Sept.    

2. Framework for developing HSPC recommendations for PfG

Jon introduced the first item raising a request for volunteers to help develop recommendations for the 3 PfG areas. He noted that work was being undertaken to prepare a fast track list of proposals for PfG and over the next week the group will help develop recommendations that will be considered by the Social Renewal Advisory Board (SRAB). At SRAB yesterday it was confirmed that the same high level approach was being taken by the other groups.

Jon introduced the story so far paper, providing a recap of the 3 areas identified by the group which were:

  • Addressing, preventing and ending homelessness
  • Housing supply and affordability
  • Housing as the basis for successful communities

He specified that he was looking for volunteers to look at these areas to ensure the group have recommendations to submit for PfG.

Ending Homelessness, Housing Supply and Affordability

Key points:

    • Although COSLA’s community wellbeing board has still to discuss the HARSAG recommendations in detail, happy to support in principle and consideration will be required on delivery at local level.
    • Essential to embed equalities throughout the process.
    • Recommendations on ending homelessness and tenancy sustainment should include the wider system of welfare payments and affordability including Social Welfare Fund (SWF) and Discretionary Housing Payments.
    • Could part of SWF be ring fenced to support homelessness and meeting the targets set in HARSAG 2?
    • This is about the housing system more broadly but recognise we only have one opportunity to support people out of this emergency situation into a settled home.
    • Wider economic benefits of supporting people out of homelessness will need to be highlighted.
    • 30 HARSAG recommendations overlap with the work of PRS resilience group.
    • Early prevention approach. Use rent arrears to identify those at risk of homelessness. There is a lot of evidence of people struggling.
    • We need to prevent younger people from becoming homeless, particularly around family situations.
    • One local authority has shifted a housing officer role to that of Community Coach employing a coaching model and supporting families at the earliest opportunities.
    • Concentrate on the longer term as well as the short term strategy, with a view to preventing homelessness in future.
    • Consider a Human Rights Audit, alongside other audits as proposed in the recommendations. We currently have very little understanding of how many people are living in housing that does not meet their human rights and the impact this has upon them and their communities.
    • Diversity of housing need is reflected in the 12 short videos gathered as part of Housing to 2040 consultation Housing has to grow with people.
    • LAHRG recognise that there are a complex range of factors that lead to homelessness including, health, NRTPF and domestic abuse.
    • If looking at allocating 80-90% lets to homeless then we can't expect other tenants to pay for the support needed through rents. Need welfare and wider support which has to be upfront.
    • Need to have a rural strand running through all 3 themes and across different socio economic groups across Scotland.

Housing Supply and Affordability

Key points:

    • We are towards the end of the current housing supply programme. What changes do we need to make in terms of flexibilities, extensions to aid and promote recovery?
    • What is needed in this PfG to support future AHSP?  53,000 affordable homes are needed (based on CIH, SFHA, and Shelter research) and  this needs to be  further refined to consider practical delivery
    • Improve the definition of affordability, with housing costs in relation to income being the vital factor. Look at whole housing costs.
    • What can we include now for PfG - should this include plans for future research?
    • Should recognise quality of buildings as well as numbers. Have a long term aim to use social housing quality as a standard to which to aspire.
    • Housing associations are committed to building new homes but it is a challenge on current funding levels. SHR is pressuring to hold rents but there is a need to keep up satisfaction levels for tenants. Concern about existing stock e.g. EESSH 2 has to be set aside. We can’t invest in existing housing, deliver new housing and hold rents without further investment. How do we prioritise?
    • Social rents in Scotland are unaffordable in location specific areas e.g. Edinburgh is particularly expensive for both social and private sector. Housing costs are location specific so should address as such rather than generalisations around affordability.
    • ​LAs would like to see parity in terms of funding due to the increased unit costs. Funding should reflect cost reality of increased safety, energy efficiency and community sustainability.
    • Need to involve PRS to upgrade stock.
    • LAHRG discussed reviewing LHA into bands for each council to have flexibility to take account of tourism, tenure mix and create vibrant communities.
    • PRS rents show huge increases beyond incomes over the past couple of decades. Lack of transparency on PRS rent levels. 
    • Housing 'availability' rather than supply. Look at new build and existing (which picks up public and private sector). Can link to legislation on tenement repair?​
    • Research on sampling of advertised rents.
    • In terms of affordability rural councils, and councils with significant discrepancies in PRS rates, there may be a potential of reviewing Broad Market Rental Areas via the Rents Officer for Scotland with the aim of not having one standard LHA across council areas but allocating LHA in response to the median rent of housing market areas. Under the current arrangements in high demand areas PRS tenancies are out of reach even with LHA.
    • Consider diversity in supply chain and delivery options for e.g. supporting delivery models such as self-build / custom build, co-housing etc.
    • Place principal is great for engaging and identifying what needs done.  There is still the need for funding to deliver it.

​Housing as the Basis for Successful Communities

Key points:

  • Need top down levers to support communities to deal with different geographies etc.
  • We already have community assets, community anchors, place making etc. These work. We need to explore how to continue these if they are not funded through rents.
  • It is on the ground that policy is joined up and delivers what is needed. ​
  • Some communities have place making maps and it takes a huge amount of resource from the council to support this. This is the only way to create communities in future.
  • If the Place Principle is embedded we can also then measure impact through the National Performance Framework to better understand what has been achieved and what still needs to be done

Given pressures of time on those in the Circle and in putting together the PfG recommendations, it was  confirmed that rather than have 3 separate groups,  if possible  members would be circulated with  the draft recommendations with the intention of getting consensus from the group.

3. Lived Experience next steps

Sally noted that a key part of the HSPC’s work is to capture lived experience of the housing system. Lived experience both existing and new will be used as evidence. The paper sets out an example of a letter aimed at gathering the right information. Due to timescales this will be in the longer term rather than for the current phase.

Deposit Schemes in Scotland were suggested as a useful resource. While not covering all PRS tenants it will capture many people’s experiences.

4. AoB and Close

Headlines based on today's discussion:

​Addressing, preventing and ending homelessness (prevention focus)

  • Permanently prevent a return to previous levels of rough sleeping in all areas
  • Extend emergency protections for renters created for the coronavirus pandemic
  • Continue to strengthen national plan for ending homelessness

Housing supply and affordability

  • Maximise housing options for everyone
  • Long term commitment to increase new housing supply
  • Improve housing affordability (include DHP/SWF, regional affordability, PRS)

Housing as the basis for successful communities

  • Improve housing standards (quality, energy, accessibility, tenements)
  • Focus on place making and Place Principle (recognition of existing community anchors)
  • Community empowerment

The comments from this and the 2 previous meetings will inform our contributions for PfG.

The next meeting will take place on Thursday 6th  August at 11 am

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