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Scottish government responds to report on housing and wellbeing

The Scottish government has responded to a report from the Commission on Housing and Wellbeing, agreeing with its findings that housing is fundamental to the wellbeing, fairness and prosperity of the country. 

An independent group was set up with the support of charity Shelter Scotland to investigate the national housing policy. Chaired by former auditor general of Scotland, Robert Black, the commission published its report in June 2015.

The report set out to identify the central importance of having a safe, secure and suitable home that allows people to fulfil their potential. It also made 18 recommendations, which would address housing-related poverty and environmental challenges. The recommendations were categorised under five headings:

  • Housing as Home
  • Neighbourhood and Community
  • Economic Wellbeing
  • Health and Education
  • Environmental Sustainability

In the report, Mr Black said that if we want to ensure all households have a decent home, more houses need to be built, particularly affordable housing. "We also need to ensure that existing housing is kept in good condition. Beyond the house itself, our homes need to be in well-designed neighbourhoods with strong communities," he added.

In the government's response to the report, it said that it fully agrees with the commission's findings about the importance of housing for people's wellbeing. It also pointed out some of the steps it has already taken to increase the housing supply and protect residents.

The government said it is committed to increasing the delivery of affordable housing to 50,000 homes in the next five years - 35,000 of those will be social homes. It also said it will continue to support innovation in housing supply. Already, some 4,000 new affordable homes have been approved, with financing mechanisms making up to £500 million available.

Under the environmental sustainability heading, the commission highlighted the importance of thermal wall insulation, both for the people living in the homes and the environment. It also noted that more progress has been made in terms of loft and cavity wall insulation than with solid wall insulation. However, the commission also found that the rate of progress for insulating homes was unlikely to be sufficient to meet the objectives of the Sustainable Housing Strategy.

In the government's response, it identified the importance of improving energy efficiency in Scotland's housing, both to reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty.

"For many years, Scottish building regulations have delivered new homes that are well insulated, with efficient heating systems effectively controlled, which result in low running costs," it said, adding that the use of on-site power generation, through technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels, has become more common in new homes across Scotland, further helping to minimise energy use and CO2 emissions.

The government also promised to continue to invest in the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland, providing assistance to the nation's most vulnerable households. It also said it will work with stakeholders to develop Scotland's Energy Efficiency Programme, which is due to be launched in 2018.

Commenting on the report, social justice secretary Alex Neil said: "We recognise the critical role that housing plays in promoting social justice, strengthening communities and tackling inequalities."