Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle minutes: 6 August 2020

Minutes of the 6 August meeting of the Social Renewal Housing System Policy Circle.

Attendees and apologies


  • Sally Thomas, Scottish Federation of Housing Association (Joint Chair)
  • Tom Barclay, JHPDG / Wheatley Group
  • Hugh McClung, Regional Networks RTO Representative
  • Mark Stephens, University of Glasgow
  • Nile Istephan, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Eildon Housing Association Cassandra Dove, SFHA
  • James Fowlie, COSLA
  • Nina Ballantyne, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • David Bookbinder, Glasgow West of Scotland Forum
  • Craig Dalzell, Commonweal
  • Karen Stevenson, RIAS
  • John Blackwood, Scottish Association of Landlords
  • Jo Ozga, Women’s Aid
  • Ashleigh Simpson, Crisis

SG Officials

  • Shirley Laing
  • Naeem Bhatti
  • Angela O’Brien
  • Margaret Irving
  • Liz Geddes
  • Kuan Loh
  • Laura Dougan


  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis
  • Shona Stephen, Queen Cross Housing Association (Member of Poverty and Inequality Commission)
  • Shona Gorman, Regional Networks RTO Representative
  • Craig Spence, Rural and Island Housing Forum (Orkney Housing Association)
  • Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson
  • Katey Tabner, COSLA - Official
  • John Mills, ALACHO, Fife Council
  • Catriona MacKean
  • Marion Gibbs
  • Janine Kellett
  • Amanda Callaghan

Items and actions

1. Welcome and review of last meeting

Sally welcomed everyone to the meeting and listed the papers that had been sent out indicating that some of the information will carry forward to the next meeting. The plan for today is to review progress.  

2. Process for developing HSPC recommendations and SRAB feedback

Sally noted that we had  aimed for a volunteer approach to the PfG and had intended to seek agreement from the group in advance however PfG deadlines meant that the work had to be completed by Monday so that was not possible.

She explained that the recommendation paper had been developed using the material provided by the group and from discussions with SG officials.  The focus was on quality rather than quantity and had been framed in terms of immediate actions to ensure this could lay a foundation for longer term aims. The group have a copy of the priority recommendations paper for consideration.

The SRAB board met yesterday to pull together and discuss the recommendations from the 9 policy circles. There were lots of areas that overlapped with our work such as ageing, disability, community regeneration, poverty etc. The board is going to produce a summary paper to pull together the recommendations and ensure cross-cutting alignment.

Comments from the group included:

  • What is the best mechanism to provide comments on the recommendations? Sally noted that she would come back on that issue when looking at the next stage and timescales.

Did the SRAB agree or was there a sense of policy conflict? Sally noted that this varied and that it would be captured in the notes of the board meeting. If the recommendations did not make it to PfG then they will be considered elsewhere. Rather than conflict there were a lot of crosscutting and complimentary aims.

  • How well do the economic renewal proposals tie in with those of social renewal given the different priorities and policy consequences?  Scottish Government is actively involved with DG Economy to work on the Benny Higgins report published yesterday. Report yesterday said that we should continue to have a broad economic approach.  Helpful to look at the 4 harms from the pandemic - health, non-health, social and economic.  SG will be blending all of these into PfG. The shape of the economy can obviously be a massive driver of inequalities/equalities so good to hear that's being considered. 

3. Key questions for the HSPC to address

The Chair noted that the first question was to provide PfG recommendations and that there were three further questions to be addressed (in the Scope of Work agreed by the Circle at the outset):

  • How can we ensure that everyone is able to access the housing system in a way that promotes equality, prosperity and social justice, and that homelessness is prevented from happening in the first place for all citizens?
  • In the medium term, what are the elements of the housing system that we aspire to achieve; what is our long-term vision for housing, and what will this look like for all members of our society? Specifically, this question will include a ‘health check’ of the Housing 2040 Principles considering the learning about the importance and role of home from the experience of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • How will we achieve the housing system described, and building on the Housing 2040 Principles? What is the framework of policies, investments and processes that will enable us to achieve a housing system that is the foundation for an equal, prosperous and just society?

The group made the following points:

  • Need to emphasis prevention, both as a driving principle throughout and in specific issues, i.e. homelessness.  It is possible that unemployment could double by the end of the year so want to address possible increase in temporary accommodation by looking at prevention.
  • Need to take account of the differing housing needs of men and women. There are different impacts on women because of e.g. caring responsibilities. We need a housing system that promotes equality. We have to tackle this first or we will end up reinforcing existing problems.
  • Prevention is a key point - resources have historically been an real issue for Local Government and likely to be even more of a challenge moving forward which is why it is so important to prevent people becoming homeless.  
  • More development of design and quality agenda and how that will be achieved.  When discussing Housing to 2040 diversification of supply is fundamental. Place, design, diversity of types of home and process of creating homes are all part of core recommendations.
  • Place principles are important, but doesn’t require quality of places, simply informs. Planning system, NPF4 important consideration.  People have been in their homes 6 months so are more aware of what they need and what they expect going forward.
  • Have local working groups to meet with LAs, developers etc. to look at design issues. Often house building is about cheapest/easiest form of housing and we fit people into them.
  • Building on recommendation 6, social rent and affordability should be improved in all types of rent e.g. social rent, mid-market and golden share. This will affect design and criteria.
  • Recommendation 7, support existing social providers when taking action to reduce stigma of social housing. Extend this to smaller grass roots organisations and support community more holistically. Some HAs are provided with funding which is for the wider community so added value from organisations working together.
  • Quality of Place making and standards have been at the heart of the current affordable programme, whilst we can’t always affect the Section 75 product, we have a very strong influence on design and most affordable developers have very well developed engagement strategies with future (and existing) customers. We shouldn’t forget to emphasise the quality and maturity of the AHSP as it continues to deliver and is changing peoples’ lives for the better.
  • Challenge is often for MMR to be a viable investment where the LHA is lower. HAs need to ensure they remain safe in their viability assessments of such MMR, where the benchmark grant hasn’t been uplifted for a long time. LHA effectively precludes MMR in some areas due to the low rate - we know it would make a positive difference in some communities but the blanket approach in the Broad Market Area doesn't allow for this.
  • Housing to 2040 is a 20 year vision but we need to develop pathways to achieve this vision. What foundational changes are needed and what needs to be done to get clear deliverables?

The Chair noted the next stage of the process will be from now until November to develop longer term proposals and these will impact on the period beyond November. The group were asked for their thoughts about developing the vision:

Comments were as follows:

  • It would be useful for the group to use the Housing to 2040 work as a basis on which to take forward ideas. Importance of mainstreaming equality when reviewing/developing 2040 principles into practice, including robust analysis to inform proposals. How can we make the visions and principles a reality?
  • Vision- capture the role that MHS policy has had and would continue to have in supporting the 3 harms that Shirley referenced- Health Economic and Social. The £3.4 bn ROI against these metrics are surely key for political leaders to hear.
  • Would like to develop the property tax proposal - Recommendation 9, Action 5. This refers to increasing taxes on 2nd homes. Develop proposals to make existing council tax more progressive by amending the band multipliers. Easy to do; can be done step by step.    Do this for all residential property not just second homes? However any tax on second homes affects availability of stock in the PRS too so has to be taken into account. Not clear that Recommendation 9, Action 5 referred to council tax. No support for increase in LBTT on non-primary residences. 
  • Going forward we need to look at future housing design and supply and take cognisance of future aims and aspirations of potential customers. Perhaps that could be incorporated into the allocations strategy for housing providers. This may give insight into future developments in design and demand.
  • ​Need a cross party focus that places a strong housing system as a key policy platform in the same league as Health & Education.

The Chair summarised next steps

  • Use the 2040 work to date and look at the deliverability of the principles through key questions to stress test them.  Do we think they are the right ones and how to deliver them?
  • Early discussion with SG to make sure about the starting point for any framing that would be required early on.

The group went on to discuss further:

  • Scope for the SG taking equity shares in housing (as with Help to Buy).
  • Re Recommendation 2 and the PRS: It is important to focus on sustaining tenancies and the use of the pre-action protocols in anticipation of avoiding eviction proceedings. In reality it is the interventions we implement that will avoid homelessness, not changes to the law on eviction. A further extension of the Schedule 1 provisions would be deeply damaging to the private rented sector and this would have a knock-on effect on the availability of much needed homes for those who are unable to access social housing and do not wish to buy, or cannot afford to buy, their own home.
  • We need immediate strong and permanent pre-action protocol for tenants in the Private Rented Sector, including clear guidance on how landlords can best avoid taking eviction action. PRS is responding to the crisis by developing new intervention tools like resolution schemes to help agree repayment plans for tenants in rent arrears. New website about to go live in the next few days:
  • Joining the dots between our housing outputs and the economic, health and education impacts would be a powerful tool to convince policy makers of investment in AHP.
  • Housing 2040 is not just from the "starting point" position that we're looking at but also from the perspective of end point. Will the final document actually meet its stated goals - if not, then we need to do more.
  • SG architecture and planning could collate information on work that is ongoing – progress in planning, self-build, cohousing to give context. For example previously self- build pilots indicated financing was a problem so how do we move to the next stage? Changes to the Planning Act mean that LA have to keep a register of interest if someone wants to self-build.
  • Need to look at the list of resources and map these against the vision and principles and look at funding, changes to taxation and practical changes.
  • Work has already started to map the work that the Circle has done across to that of Housing to 2040 and see what actions the principles require.  Short timeframe but good to have cross over to secondary data reports (which have been logged as reference documents which can inform the work).
  • Clear that best use of group is to provide with information and give time to consider 2040 and the material the group has generated to date. Important to engage with networks but need time to reflect as pace is a real challenge for many of the members.

4. Next steps and dates of future meetings

Lived experience wasn’t covered but this is an essential part of our work and this will be picking up at the next meeting. Lived experience will now feed into November outputs, rather than PfG, due to extremely tight timescale

Next meeting to be agreed. Weekly meetings requests will be sent out shortly and will be reviewed if they are not all required.

Back to top