Page last updated at 00:16 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

Charity calls for more new homes

Building site
Shelter said thousands of new homes could be built

Shelter has urged the UK Government to "build its way" out of recession by funding affordable housing projects.

It has come up with a two-year package for social housing which would provide 600m for new homes in Scotland.

According to the charity's figures, there are 200,000 households on Scottish council waiting lists.

It said successive governments had failed to invest enough and in recent months house building had slumped while the need for homes remained.

Shelter claimed that a programme of increased affordable housing and infrastructure investment would provide a substantial boost to the construction industry and protect a significant number of jobs.

Government has its role to play, but we also need the banks to start lending again
Ann McKechin
Scotland Office Minister

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "Now with the recession in full force, the construction industry is faltering while the social housing sector is under greater pressure than ever.

"In Scotland alone there are over 200,000 households on council waiting lists, and more than 9,500 households in temporary accommodation.

"We have an internationally acclaimed homelessness target to meet by 2012, which will give every homeless person the right to a home. There has never been a better time to boost investment in affordable rented housing."

In January, a 17m funding package to help speed up the supply of cheap homes across the country was announced by the Scottish Government.

It was claimed the money would allow housing associations to buy both land and unsold homes in the private sector.

It could also kick-start construction work on existing developments.

The funding was part of 120m being spent ahead of schedule over three years to try to accelerate the supply of affordable housing.

A broken brick
In November, the construction industry on the Western Isles was in crisis according to the majority of building firms contacted by BBC Alba
Scottish house prices have continued to fall but the rate of decline has slowed, according to research by Lloyds TSB published in February
Highland Council has said it wants to build houses again, but could not afford to take part in a Scottish Government scheme aimed at encouraging authorities to do so. The local authority said it did not make "financial sense" until it reduced its high loan debt

Scottish Labour is due to host what it called an emergency housing summit involving the UK Government, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, homeless charities and other organisations.

Scotland Office Minister Ann McKechin said ahead of the gathering in Glasgow: "In the current economic circumstances we desperately need to get Scotland building again.

"Housing associations are telling me that one of the biggest problems they face getting new developments off the ground is attracting finance.

"Government has its role to play, but we also need the banks to start lending again."

Scottish Housing and Communities Minister, Alex Neil, said Labour's hosting of the summit "beggared belief".

He said: "The Labour/Lib Dem administration built a mere six council homes during their entire four-year parliamentary term from 2003 to 2007.

"In stark contrast, during the SNP government's first year in office more public sector houses were started than at any time since 1997, including 432 council homes."

Mr Neil said the Scottish Government was listening to housing associations.

Meanwhile, Dunfermline said it was supporting Scotland's housing industry having committed an additional 30m in social housing schemes.

The building society said this took its total commitment to the sector to more than 800m.

The investment will see more than 500 affordable homes built in Glasgow, Perthshire, Fort William and Stirlingshire in the next three years.

Gordon Campbell, head of social housing, said Dunfermline was trying to re-establish public confidence in the Scottish housing market.

He added: "Our investment across Scotland not only allows the Scottish public affordable housing options but also enables construction to continue in key areas of Scotland. For every 1m we invest, the government adds roughly 2m in grant."

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