ETF Housing Blog

Next steps for housing in Scotland: investment, delivery and meeting housing needs

Responding to local housing needs: access, affordability and design

This is a transcript of a presentation I delivered to the national conference about the future of housing in Scotland. As the only tenant presenting at the event for housing providers, house builders, planners, academics and the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Kevin Stewart MSP, I wanted to highlight that housing is a rights issue and that tenants must participate in developing housing investment models and in planning successful communities for the future.

“I’m the Convenor of Edinburgh Tenants Federation.  We are an organisation for over thirty five tenants’ and residents’ groups in the city of Edinburgh.  We’re an independent organisation that is run by tenants, for tenants.  We work closely with the City of Edinburgh Council, in particular to ensure that tenants are right at the heart of decision making about housing and communities.  Today I’ll talk about the importance of communities being at the heart of design and dialogue about place, about why it’s important, what it means in practice and the difference that can be made when local people are involved.

It might seem obvious to say for new built homes for rent, tenants will live in the properties that you are building.  Our children and grandchildren, in my case my great grandchildren, will be the ones playing in the open space you’re creating.  And we are the ones who have to live with the facilities, or lack of facilities, that accompany our local area.  So we need to be involved in creating these communities that give us a sense of place.  We don’t want you to be making the mistakes of the past, like the photos that you see here.

It makes good business sense to get it right first time, to create the spaces where people want to live in good quality housing.  I don’t see much advertising for new builds “in deprived areas”.  No, we need to lose this stigma and create places that are valued and to do this well, communities must be involved.

If we frame housing in international standards, the UN has said that an adequate standard of housing is a right for all citizens.  This is not just about homes being built to a good standard, we know that when housing rights are met, when homes are warm, healthy, safe, accessible and affordability, this has a direct impact on improved physical health and mental health.

Homes need to be located in a way that people can get involved in society, so we can get to work, schools and nearby healthcare.

Homes need to be affordable, so that people shouldn’t have to spend so much, that they’re not able to cover their basic needs.

And we need accessible and culturally appropriate housing.

All of those rights need to be taken into account when planning future developments.

So if we start with these rights as a guide to creating places and involving people in an open and accountable way, we could transform the way planning happens in Scotland.  What I’m saying is we need a rights based approach to housing in Scotland.  That means using the PANEL principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment with rights set in law.

Communities want to get involved in designing our places for the future.  We have a Community Empowerment Act that means people can get involved.  Tenants of course have the right to have a say in the cost of this investment, at the most strategic level, particularly when some of the investment costs come out of tenants’ rents.

For tenants, participation means being involved in strategic priorities through the SHIP (Strategic Housing Investment Plan), open and honest dialogue with social landlords about their investment priorities, the cost of rents, the long term planning needs for the aging population, how to care for particular groups of people, those leaving the National Health Service care, and those with disabilities.

And at a local level with planning groups, through consultations, design workshops and conversations.  Developers and housing providers need to get the participation strategies right so that people can get involved in whatever way they would like; from assessing progress to discussing the strategic investment, right down to the detail of how a local building programme will look and how it will feel.

Involving communities well can work and does work. I want to tell you about the area where I live.  In Pennywell in North Edinburgh, 719 homes will be built across four phases.  Homes are for social rent and market sale.  There has been a lot of discussion, consultation and design work with schools, a local development group was set up involving our community, regular newsletters were sent out and meetings involved the local community from the start.

Collectively, we were involved in advising the future of our area, from the cost of the new build, to the design of the new shops, the health facilities and the design of the homes. This has taken many, many years of planning and dialogue, but now we have a space to be proud of.

Developers are now advertising that place as, “if you’re looking for a warm, welcoming place to call home that is also an easy commute to work, studies or leisure, you have reached the right place”.

So if you are not already involving people in decision making about place, I want to ask you why not? Go and do it.  A re-think of how we design with and for communities, is possible.

Thank you.”

Betty Stevenson, Convenor, Edinburgh Tenants Federation

Betty Stevenson’s slides can be downloaded by clicking here





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