The Scottish Government recently published 'Housing To 2040' – Scotland's first long-term national housing strategy with ambitious plans for the delivery of affordable and zero emission homes.

The strategy sets out a route map aimed at ensuring that everyone "will have a safe, high-quality home that is affordable and meets their needs in the place they want to be" by 2040.

There are four key parts to the strategy:

  1. More homes at the heart of great places
  2. Affordability and choice
  3. Affordable warmth and zero emission homes
  4. Improving the quality of all homes

1.  More homes at the heart of great places

One of the main aims is to deliver 100,000 affordable homes by 2031/32 with at least 70% of those being for social rent. These will be a combination of new builds and refurbishment of existing dwellings. New homes are to be of high quality and have zero emission heating.

NPF4 and the housing supply targets which it sets will dictate how and where these homes will be delivered through Local Development Plans, but the message is that new housing should be provided only where it helps create safer, stronger, attractive, sustainable and integrated communities. The creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods features heavily. Local communities are to be empowered to respond to housing needs in their area, via local place plans.

You can read our recent blog on preparing local place plans here.

Brownfield development; regeneration of vacant properties; and mixed uses within towns are all encouraged, with the promise of a share of the £275 million which is to be invested to support community-led regeneration and town-centre revitalisation.

2.  Affordability and Choice

Equality for all, ending homelessness and a fundamental right to an adequate home underpins this part of the strategy, with the Government seeking to discourage home ownership as a wealth accumulator. Rather, it sees the rented sector as key to providing affordable high-quality dwellings.

The Help to Buy scheme will be phased out; replaced with assistance for renovation, adaptation or improvement of existing homes. But in more rural and island communities. the self-build market will be actively encouraged alongside an increase in permitted development rights.

3.  Affordable warmth and zero emissions

£33 billion is to be invested in ensuring that all new homes delivered by RSLs and local authorities by 2026 are zero emission homes. In order to achieve this, procurement of affordable homes will be modernised. We can expect a new business model for the design and construction of affordable homes based on collaborative procurement and a move to offsite construction.

Existing homes are to be adapted and retrofitted to improve energy efficiency and enable the existing stock to remain in use.

4.  Improving quality of homes

The recent pandemic has put a spotlight on our homes and the strategy looks for homes to not just be of a high standard, but also capable of meeting people's needs. Flexibility will be essential as we juggle competing needs for office, learning and home space. Digital connectivity will be fundamental and all new build social rented homes are to be digitally enabled.

Consultation on a new legal Housing Standard, applicable to all tenures, will take place this year with the Standard being introduced from 2025.

What does this mean for housebuilders?

The most striking feature of the strategy is the absence of any clear target or aim for mainstream housebuilding. While great places; quality; choice; warmth and zero emissions are tenure blind, it is surprising that there is no direct acknowledgment that the private and public housebuilding sectors will need to work together to deliver Housing to 2040. Overall housing targets will be set out in NPF4, but the strategy paper gives little indication that traditional private sector new build development targets will be anywhere near the 25,000 per annum which is the minimum that industry bodies, such as Homes for Scotland, say are needed to ensure that everyone does indeed have a home that meets their needs in the place they want to be.

So where are the potential opportunities?

SMEs may be able to work with rural and island communities as part of the repopulation plans. Unlike other areas, here it is recognised that providing the right kind of housing will not just meet the needs of those living there but is essential for sustaining the economies of these communities.

Elsewhere, housebuilders will need to look for sites that help strengthen communities and either sit alongside or will attract employment opportunities. Brownfield, regeneration and mixed-use development will require a wider range of house types. Diversification into renovation and improvement of existing properties may provide additional opportunities, but this is likely to favour SMEs more than the PLCs, unless it is done at scale.

As highlighted, the emerging Housing Standard and the push towards zero emissions, affordable warmth and flexible living will apply to all tenures. These will increase construction costs, requiring housebuilders to explore more cost-effective green energy products and modern construction methods.

So, whilst we may congratulate the Scottish Government for their ambitious targets the finer detail of how these will be achieved remains very much up in the air. Collaboration is clearly fundamental to ensure the vision of Housing to 2040 is met. It is essential that housebuilders take the opportunities to engage as key stakeholders, otherwise the path set out by the route map may be very bumpy indeed.