Chapter 5 of A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22 sets down some key timelines for the delivery of zero emission homes but the dates set may have unwittingly set a trap when it comes to delivering affordable homes:

"We are developing regulations to require new buildings where a building warrant is applied for from 2024 to use zero emissions heating"

"….all new homes delivered by registered social landlords and local authorities to be zero emission homes by 2026"

"We will deliver 110,000 energy efficient, affordable homes by 2032 – at least 70% of which will be in the social rented sector and 10% in our remote, rural and island communities".

Between now and (theoretically) 1 January 2026, registered social landlords ("RSLs") and local authorities can continue to deliver affordable housing against the 110,000 target which doesn’t incorporate zero emissions heating.

Building warrants are typically valid for 3 years. This means that, on the face of the Government's proposals, affordable homes developed in line with building warrants granted pre- 1 January 2024 (and therefore potentially valid until 31 December 2026) which aren’t ready for hand over until post 1 January 2026 won't be able to be "delivered" for affordable housing.

This is likely to be a problem for developing RSLs and local authorities themselves, who may end up in a position whereby they have developed affordable homes in line with building warrants granted pre- 1 January 2024 which aren’t ready for hand over until post 1 January 2026 and therefore can't be "delivered" for affordable housing. Potential tenants will remain on housing lists even although the housing is in the ground.

Not all affordable housing is developed by RSLs and local authorities. Lots of affordable homes are delivered by private developers in partnership with RSLs and local authorities. What will become of affordable housing developed by private developers under design and build contracts or in terms of s.75 agreements in line with building warrants granted pre- 1 January 2024 which is delivered post 1 January 2026? Will RSLs and local authorities be able to refuse this housing (or refuse to pay for it in full)?

Of course, the detail is still being developed. Securing delivery of such a large number of affordable homes while at the same time taking huge steps towards decarbonisation will be challenging and this is only one potentially tricky aspect: a potentially trickier issue is what is to become of the affordable homes delivered – and paid for – between now and 2026 which don’t have zero emissions heating? Affordable homes are needed now, absolutely, and so thought must be given now as to whether key dates are adjusted or funding is made available for significant and costly upgrades to brand new homes to meet the targets set.

While we wait for the detail to come through, everyone expecting to be involved in the development of affordable housing to be delivered around 2025/2026 should consider their development programmes carefully.


Jenna Monteith

Legal Director