Scotland needs 35,000 new houses for social rent by 2026, report by leading economist claims

The report was written by former chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, Stephen Boyle.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 7:00 am
More social housing is needed in Scotland, a new report has said.
More social housing is needed in Scotland, a new report has said.

More than 35,000 new houses for social rent should be built in Scotland to help grow the economy and create jobs while reducing homelessness and improving health and education for residents, a new report has claimed.

The report, called ‘A new economic case for social housing’ has been written by Stephen Boyle, the former chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, and was commissioned by homelessness charity Shelter.

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The report claims the construction of 35,000 new social homes by 2026 would create nearly £12 billion in additional GDP while creating jobs across the country.

However, Shelter Scotland says this figure is now closer to 37,100 homes and is calling on all parties to commit without delay to building the homes.

The report states £4bn of GDP would be created through providing homes to the homeless, while children living in decent housing would make them more productive in later life, adding another £1.5bn.

The construction of the houses themselves and the maintenance of them would add an additional £6.4bn and generate around 900 jobs a year.

Mr Boyle, the author of the report, said housing was not the “silver bullet” it would “go a long way” to helping improve wellbeing in Scotland over the coming years.

He said: “Investment in housing is investment in people in a host of ways, from improving health and education to tackling climate change and reducing poverty. It also delivers much-needed conventional economic benefits of more jobs and higher incomes.

“Covid-19 has underlined the benefits of good quality housing. People who live in sub-standard accommodation or who are homeless are more likely to develop conditions that compromise their immune systems, while overcrowding can make it easier for infections to spread.

"Children living in unsatisfactory housing arrangements already suffered an educational penalty. School closures are likely to have had an especially adverse effect on them, not least because poor quality, overcrowded and temporary accommodation is not a supportive environment for home schooling.

"What’s more, investing in social housing has the added benefit of boosting jobs and incomes as the economy rebuilds from recession. And we know that a programme of housing investment can be delivered.

“A good quality and affordable home can be the springboard from which children thrive and adults from all walks of life achieve their full potential.”

During this parliamentary term which will end next May, the Scottish Government has committed to building 50,000 affordable homes - including 35,000 properties for social rent.

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We welcome the findings of Stephen Boyle’s report, which come at a time of great uncertainly for tens of thousands of families and individuals across Scotland who may worry for their jobs, their wellbeing and their homes.

“However, poverty, homelessness and poor housing are not new, they existed long-before the current crisis.

“This analysis, as well as what we’re seeing on a daily basis at the sharp end of the housing crisis, shows us that the Scottish Government must do more to deliver the homes people need. While we commend them for building more social homes than ever before, they are in effect running the bath without the plug.”

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