University of St Andrews

Housing Experts Call for Radical Shift in Affordable Housing Policy

Friday 06 July 2012

A working party of international experts, organised by the University of St Andrews, is calling for a radical shift in the ways in which providers of social and affordable housing for rent are financed, organised and involved in housing policies. Delegates from Scotland, England, Australia, Norway and Canada have been involved in a two-year programme of knowledge exchange led by the University's Centre for Housing Research (CHR).

Key findings from the project include:

· Government support for capital spending on social and affordable housing is in decline

· Growing unmet demand for affordable housing for rent in both social and market sectors

· Home-ownership rates falling sharply for younger households and clear signs of wider housing stress growing

· Evidence housing problems are not simply about affordability for poorer households

· Emerging public concerns in regard to housing, health and care for increasing numbers of elderly households as well as the housing opportunities for younger households that cross the income spectrum

· New businesses for new times will have to look to housing related activities that generate profits, such as market rental provision, elderly care and area renewal that will cross-subsidise their social activities.

· New models of debt financing will have to be progressed rapidly as banks continue to frustrate innovation in the sector

CHR's aim was to involve leading social housing providers from different countries to share their experiences of how providers were coping with their challenges and then assess whether lessons could be learned and adapted elsewhere. It is clear from those studies that the global financial crisis has affected capital funding for housing and that new financial models are needed. The exercise debunked the policy myth that national debt reduction strategies could follow the model of the Canadian experience of the 1990's without significant devastation of social programmes such as low-income housing. And it illustrated how a non-profit sector emerging out of a market real estate tradition, as in Australia, could shape new business and finance practice in other non-profits. A series of policy papers are being developed by the organisations and two online conferences or "webinars" have been held. These identified the challenge to find management and governance structures which retained the strength of the local community led housing providers while achieving economies of scale and developing their capacity to increase supply.

For more information contact the Principal Investigator Professor Duncan Maclennan.