Brexit could derail Scottish social housing plans

5 Apr 17

Brexit could bring Scotland’s plans for a new generation of social housing grinding to a halt, leaders of the Scottish housing association movement have warned.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU, which a substantial majority of Scottish voters opposed, poses a threat to the sources of finance, raw materials and skilled labour on which the programme depends, according to a survey of members by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.

SFHA chief executive Mary Taylor said: “The capacity of the construction industry to deliver new social housing is paramount at a time when 50,000 affordable homes are to be delivered within five years.

“It is therefore a huge concern that almost 70% of respondents to our survey think Brexit will decrease capacity of the construction workforce.”

More than 80% also predict Brexit will have an adverse impact on the supply and cost of construction materials and components. Some respondents, however, believe a positive outcome of this will be the compensatory development of better Scottish and UK provision of both materials and workers.

One big concern revealed in the survey, and mentioned by 90% of respondents, is the future access to investment sources like the European Investment Bank, European Social Fund, and European Regional Development Fund. It comes at a time when some in the industry fear that UK austerity pressures will force Scottish ministers to cut the housing association grant.

Other worries include a rise in the cost of imported raw materials, potential changes in regulation and procurement, and skills shortages.

“While there is little optimism about the challenges ahead, there is a recognition that it may prompt better training and employability opportunities,” Taylor acknowledged.

“However, to exploit those effectively, and minimise disruption, we need to start acting now. I have already written to Scottish ministers to encourage them to create a significant number of apprenticeships in order to safeguard the future of the housebuilding sector in Scotland.

“Access to funding and investment is also an area of huge concern for the social housing sector, and we will be seeking clarity on the situation as negotiations progress.”

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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