Today National Registers of Scotland released their updated household estimates for 2015. They show that the number of Scottish households has grown by 18,200 in the past year. In 2014, there were 2.42 million households in Scotland, an increase of around 169,000 households (seven per cent) over the last 10 years. Forecasts also show that number of households in Scotland population is due to increase by around 360,000 by 2037.
This is partly down to population growth which is, of course, good news for Scotland’s economy and partly due to the changing nature of the household: more of us are living alone or in smaller household sizes, with an average of 2.17 people in each household. This does, however, pose challenges. To ensure that Scotland remains an attractive place to live and work, we need to lay down the infrastructure that will enable everyone in Scotland to flourish.
Absolutely central to this is ensuring that demand for housing, specifically affordable housing, is met. This was one of the central recommendations of the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing’s blueprint for Scotland’s future. There are currently 75,000 households in Scotland living in overcrowded accommodation, 150,500 on local authority waiting lists (not including Glasgow) and over 10,000 households are living in temporary homeless accommodation – around a quarter of these (2,662) are households with children.
Back in 2005 the Scottish Government estimated that to meet demand for social housing 8,000 socially rented homes were required to be built per year. Since this temperature check of housing need in Scotland was taken an average of 4,686 socially rented homes have been built per year, leaving a shortfall of around 3,000 socially rented homes per year.
While the government is on track to meet its target of building 30,000 affordable homes by 2016 – 20,000 of which are for social rent – and will abolish the right to buy for social tenants from summer 2016, more needs to be done as today’s estimates show. Scotland’s record on house building represents a consistent failure, not only to address current need for affordable housing, but to look to the future and ensure future generations can access safe, stable and affordable housing.
Meeting housing need through an ambitious programme of house building should be a central pillar of the next Scottish Government’s ambition – and play a full role in the current Scottish Government’s social justice agenda.
Having a safe, secure and affordable home touches upon all aspects of our lives. Unfortunately this isn’t a reality for many thousands of households in Scotland today. There should be a collective effort to significantly increase house building in Scotland starting now, laying the foundations for the many thousands more people in Scotland starting families and setting up households all striving for a place to call home.