Driving ongoing improvement in the quality of Scotland’s social housing stock has been a consistent long term ambition of the Scottish Government. To meet that ambition, the Scottish Housing Quality Standard was originally introduced in February 2004. According to the standard, homes should be energy efficient, safe and secure, should not be seriously damaged and should be equipped with kitchens and bathrooms that are in good condition. The Scottish Government subsequently incorporated the standard into the Scottish Social Housing Charter in April 2012 and set a target that all social housing stock in Scotland should meet this standard by April 2015.
Since that target was set some six years ago, social landlords have been working hard to bring their stock up to standard. The number of social sector properties in scope but failing to comply with the standard is projected to have fallen from almost 90,000 in March 2014 to around 30,000 by the end of the 2017-18 financial year. On this basis, the rate of progress towards achieving full compliance has been impressive. But it does mean that, more than three years after the target date for all social housing stock in Scotland to comply, thousands of properties are still falling short.
At the same time, multiple pressures are likely to make bringing those remaining properties up to standard an increasingly challenging goal. Sourcing labour to carry out planned works and repairs is one key challenge as the construction industry highlights growing skills shortages across a number of key trades. The cost of building materials has also been rising steadily. The latest official statistics show particularly high year-on-year rises in the cost of pre-cast concrete products, timber and joinery, fabricated steel, doors and windows as well as paint.
On the other side of the equation, rising inflation and stagnating wages are eroding social tenants’ capacity to withstand rent increases that would be the conventional route for social landlords to fund increasing repair and maintenance costs.
Against that background, social landlords will need to be targeted and strategic in their approach as they strive to improve any remaining stock that still fails to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard in a way that doesn’t break the bank. In recognition of this, PfH Scotland is developing a dedicated new platform that will enable local authorities and housing associations to source contractors to carry out planned works as cost-effectively as possible.
The Scottish Housing Regulator continues to monitor social landlords’ progress towards achieving 100% compliance with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard. Its 2016-17 annual report shows 94% of homes meeting the standard. We will watch with interest for signs of further improvement when the Regulator publishes its latest annual report at the end of August.
Despite the challenges, it’s clear from conversations with PfH Scotland members that Scotland’s social landlords remain collectively committed to reaching 100% compliance with the SHQS. With a combination of continued focus and determination and suitably targeted procurement solutions, we can get to a position where every single one of Scotland’s social tenants is living in the quality, energy efficient, safe and secure home they are entitled to expect.