Forbes unveils plan for thousands of new homes
SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes would set up an agency to oversee the building of thousands of homes to buy and rent.
In an admission of the government’s failure to hit targets, Ms Forbes says housing should be viewed as a “necessary infrastructure”, echoing calls from the industry to put the sector at the centre of policy making.
She says she would identify more land that could be used for housing and wants to give local authorities new powers to implement a council tax surcharge on empty second homes.
Her pledge follows demands from the industry for a greater commitment to housing. Homes for Scotland, the trade body, says the country is still 100,000 short of what the country needs and that poor housing costs the NHS £2.5bn. HFS says 25,000 homes need to be built each year but the government has never committed to it.
Jane Wood, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, told Daily Business last September that there needed o be a step change in attitudes to the sector as housing “doesn’t feel like a priority sector” and that it should be seen it as part of the solution to growing the economy.
However, the plan to build more homes has coincided with a slowdown in the market because of higher mortgage rates and the squeeze on household budgets. Housebuilders have also faced supply chain issues.
Ms Forbes said: “As First Minister I would focus on identifying more land in key areas that can be built on, offering councils the option of implementing a council tax surcharge on empty second homes and targeting further investment specifically for rural and remote areas.”
She continued: “To me the key task is to ensure we have sufficient, affordable housing of good quality for everyone.
“The basic need is to stimulate the building of thousands of new homes for purchase and rent every year.
“I would like to see a new body for house building in Scotland, tasked with further developing house building capacity and acting as an agent for change.
“It could build houses for both rent and sale; it could act as an agent for expanding construction skills apprenticeships to tackle skills shortages. In other words it could be a central feature of supply chains in Scotland able to respond to changing needs.
“Our task is to build more high quality homes for the people of Scotland and I think we need this type of new thinking to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
“Housing needs to be regarded as a necessary infrastructure in building a better Scotland and not a privilege outwith the reach of so many in our country.
“A secure, comfortable and low energy home needs to be accessible to all in a future Scotland, we have the people, the materials, and the land, we just need the vision, will and organisation.”