The United Kingdom’s housing policies have been ideologically-driven, and have led to the current crisis of strangled investment, under-provision and a general flow of power and money from civic society to the wealthy. UK housing has suffered greatly from its politicians’ fixation with a single form of home and tenure, the mortgage-backed and privately-owned home. But it is clear that, even if it was
desirable to only have this orthodox model (which it is not), not everyone is going to get a mortgage; and it is also clear that the ideological pursuit of this helped poison, and nearly bring down, the world economy, as well as being a key contributor to our current housing crisis. While Scotland has shown some appetite for broadening our housing horizons it needs to set out a clear agenda for achieving a diverse and sustainable market, that suits all incomes and interests while providing the shelter that is a fundamental right for all, and this brief paper suggests the three overarching principles we should consider, and key areas of change which, taken together, would deliver them.
― Principle 1: Sustainability: the Built Environment as Precious Resource, and the Need for Structural Change to Reflect this.
― A better strategy is needed around returning vacant homes to use and VAT must be changed to make it more advantageous to repair and rebuild houses than it is to build new stock.
― Land and Planning regulations can be changed to reduce “land banking” and to help regenerate town centres.
― Compulsory Purchase Orders and taxes such as a Land Value Tax or Derelict Land Tax can correct land ownership inequalities and allow land to be used more effectively.
― Principle 2: What We Build, and How.
― Public Rental: Scottish National Investment Bank and Company based on a re-engineered Scottish Futures Trust.
― Self-Build: models set out to encourage Local Authorities to bring land and cooperative groups together.
― The Private Rented Sector (PRS): ‘build to rent’ – long term investment.
― Infrastructure Funding: community-lrf infrastructure projects.
― Land Assembly: Local Authorities given power to acquire land.
― Principle 3: Leadership
― The Scottish Government needs to create a central Housing Unit, which can assist Local Authorities, Registered Social Landlords, Volume Housebuilders and house buyers and renters to deliver the programme we need.