In any country that claims to care about the basic needs of its citizens, and where homelessness and precarious housing is on the rise, providing homes for people ought to be a priority of the Government. This is as true for the Scottish Government as it would be for any other, yet it consistently falls short on its promises.
The SNP Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart has stated that “we’ve made the delivery of new homes a priority”. Despite this claim however, it appears that the Scottish Government’s liberal policies have failed to provide housing where it is needed most, particularly in the rural and Island communities of Scotland.
Two of their initiatives intended to create new homes in these areas are the Rural and Island Housing Funds, which provide funding to successful private-sector applicants to build houses. Together both funds aimed to construct 600 new homes between 2016 and 2021– a target which there is now no chance of them meeting. So far 203 homes have been approved and only 71 of these have actually been completed. Clearly this project has not been even a modest success.
To make things worse, the Island Housing Fund has already allocated a massive 70% of its budget but has only approved 46% of the targeted number of homes. The gap between money spent and houses approved is quite a bit smaller for the Rural Housing Fund, only having allocated 37% of its budget and approved 31% of its target.
More affordable housing is badly needed for people living in these remote communities for them to be sustainable in the future. On some of the Islands almost 40% of houses are already holiday homes owned by people living in other areas of Scotland and house prices across all the Islands are on the rise, causing younger Islanders to move to other areas instead where prices are more affordable.
The failure of these housing funds to come even close to achieving their goals shows the ineffectiveness of relying on profit-making businesses to provide housing. These organisations and landowners aren’t interested in supporting Island and Rural communities and likely didn’t see supporting this initiative as sufficiently profitable. As a result, a lack of affordable housing will continue to haunt these areas.
It is clear that the liberal, pro-capitalist approach of encouraging the free market is unable to fulfil the housing needs of the people of Scotland. Instead of relying on private investment which may never come, the construction of houses should be organised as part of a socialist planned economy which allows the democratic participation of individuals and fulfils the needs of all communities in every part of the country no matter how remote. No one should or needs to be left to face the ominous spectre of homelessness when we can simply give them a home.