With polls closed and election results coming over the next 36 hours, now is as good a time as any to take stock and reflect on how, with our supporters’ help, we have campaigned to make sure providing a safe, secure and affordable home is prioritised as we go head-first into a new parliament. 

This election has been billed as the most important since the Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999. It’s not hard to see why – Brexit and Scottish independence are big enough issues to occupy the minds of the media and electorate at the best of times, but when you throw the devastating impact across our entire society of the global pandemic into the mix as well, plus the growing immediacy of the climate emergency and major social issues from drugs deaths to educational attainment, this election feels inescapably massive.   

When you throw housing into the mix as wellwhether it’s the SNP’s Housing to 2040 vision or the Conservative pledge to end rough sleeping by 2026, Labour’s plans for a National Housing Agency, or Green proposals for a points-based system of rent controls, there are many transformational policies on the table in this election. 

So, what are each of the parties offering when it comes to building the social housing we need?  

All parties have committed to building more social homes than at any time since devolution.  

The previous governing party, the SNP, are sticking with the proposals recently announced in their Housing to 2040 vision – that is, delivering 100,000 affordable homes (including 70,000 for social rent) over the next decade. This is the least clear-cut commitment in terms of achieving our measure of reducing housing need in the next parliament – a measure looking to find at what point supply begins to reduce demand.   

Independent academic research puts that figure at a minimum of 37,100 social homes over the next 5 years, so there is a gap of around 2,100 homes in the SNPs commitment for the next parliamentary term. This might not seem significant, but it will mean 2,100 households will not have a safe, affordable and secure home, and we know the impact of not having a home that meets your needs is significant and can be long lasting. 

However, while we will continue to push for the 37,100 homes, the 10-year commitment from SNP on top of the current programme remains significant and provides longer term certainty – and the current Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said at our recent hustings event that he was “absolutely confident” that their proposals would reduce housing need. 

The Conservative proposals are for 60,000 affordable homes, including 40,000 social, over the coming 5 years, the same figure as the Liberal Democrats.  

The Greens and Labour have pledged more – Labour calling for 120,000 social homes over 10 years, with the aim of up to 200,000, while the Greens have called for 70,000 new homes by 2026 (and a further 50,000 by 2032) – including 49,000 for social rent in the coming parliament. 

Naturally, building homes is not the only piece in the puzzle – initiatives such as tackling the number of empty homes, limiting and regulating short-term lets, and making the private rented sector more affordable in the areas where rents are running away, are absolutely vital.  

All of the above, not least the wider context of this election, makes the housing commitments we have managed to secure from the 5 largest parties all the more remarkable. It’s testament to the great work our teams across Shelter Scotland have delivered  such as national hustings and local meet the candidates events, together with action from our supporters throughout our major social housing campaign, and our allies such as CIH Scotland and SFHA, that social housing is at the front of all the parties’ minds.  

With the help of our nearly 20,000 supporters who signed up to our campaign, building more social homes is now the consensus in Scottish politics – meaning that the progress made in delivering more social homes by the previous government will continue, no matter who comes out on top once the votes are counted. 

We perhaps don’t always get time to sit back and take stock of exactly what has been achieved, particularly under such difficult circumstances and when there is still so much work for us still to do to get the housing system that we all want, but we are delighted all the major parties have prioritised housing – and we’ll make sure the next government delivers on their housing commitment, no matter which party is in power.  

It is because of this work that come 2026, no matter who wins the election, more people will have safe, warm, secure and affordable homes than they do today. After the last year we’ve all had, that is something to be commended.