New revelations show the Scottish Government has questions to answer about closeness to property developer lobby

Ben Wray: "The Scottish Government appear to be reliant on the lobbyist for evidence to justify policy which its most wealthy members benefit from directly"

THE Common Weal think-tank has argued that the Scottish Government has to answer a number of questions about its closeness to the property developer lobby in Scotland, after new revelations by the investigatory journalist group The Ferret.

The Ferret revealed through FoI’s that not only have just three big property developers benefited to the tune of £189 million from help-to-buy subsidies, but that the Scottish Government has asked the property developer lobby to come up with evidence that will justify continuing the subsidy scheme.

The FoI’s also show that the property developer lobby Homes for Scotland rejected the idea of a small developers fund to replace the current Help-to-Buy scheme despite the huge profits made by just a few corporations. The small developer fund proposals have not been pursued by the Scottish Government as of yet.

The revelations come on the back of a new Scottish Government subsidy for property developers in the build-to-rent sector announced in October, the Rental Income Guarantee Scheme (RIGS), which was designed in partnership with Homes for Scotland.

Commenting on the findings, Common Weal head of policy Ben Wray, author of recent report on living in the private rented sector, stated: “These revelations open up serious questions about just how closely the Scottish Government and the property developer lobby are when it comes to designing housing policy.

“It’s perfectly reasonable that Homes for Scotland is listened to, but the Scottish Government appear to be reliant on the lobbyist for evidence to justify policy which its most wealthy members benefit from directly. The fact that HfS are direct partners in devising the new build-to-rent subsidy raises further alarm bells about the closeness of this relationship.

“The Scottish Government appear to be reliant on the lobbyist for evidence to justify policy which its most wealthy members benefit from directly.” Ben Wray

“The Ferret FoI revelations also show that HfS has specifically rejected a small housebuilder fund to replace the current help-to-buy, which the evidence shows is a cash cow for a few big corporate developers. HfS do not represent all opinion on housebuilding and all housebuilders in Scotland, and the Scottish Government would do well to remember this.

“Common Weal will be watching the Budget closely next week to see if subsidies for big corporate property developers are maintained, or if full funding commitment is put into building public rental housing.”

Comments

MauriceBishop

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 13:58

This is hardly a revelation. For years they promoted a property speculator as the thought leader on the future of business in Scotland.

gjm's picture

gjm

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 01:35

Audit Scotland states that councils and housing associations have sold 133k houses since 2000. More sold than built until recently probably due to due to SG restricting sales of these houses.
Audit Scotland states that private housebuilding dropped by half after the financial crash in 2008 and that the UK Gov spending review (austerity) reduced Scottish revenues by more than 11% impacting housing budgets

The SG estimated in 2011 that we needed to build 6k 'affordable homes' each year to meet demand.

1 billion quid will buy you only 20000 new houses at av.50k per house to build. On top of this Audit-Scotland reckons we will need 500k new homes over the next 25yrs to meet a growing population, changing demographics with different housing needs etc.

In summary. it will take eyewatering sums of cash, money that the SG currently doesn't have and can't borrow, in order to meet demand year on year. That means it will need to seek partnerships with housebuilders in Scotland. HfS state that their members build 95% of all new homes in Scotland? I like the Commonweal's small developer fund and hope that the SG find some cash for that or a similar scheme. It is not a reason to toss the baby out with the bathwater.

Being annoyed when the SG takes recommendations from the housing industry in Scotland rather than Commonweal is one thing but pointing the finger and shouting about revelations and inferring that corruption is taking place is another.

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