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Delivery of homes for social rent is top priority, Minister tells Harper Macleod's National Housing Conference

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess emphasised the Scottish Government’s focus on affordable housing at law firm Harper Macleod’s National Housing Conference (NHC) at Dunblane Hydro on Wednesday.

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The backdrop of ongoing welfare reform, regulatory change and funding issues dominated the 15th annual NHC, with the Minister joining key sector figures including David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation (pictured above) and Professor Douglas Robertson, professor of Sociology & Housing at the University of Stirling on the main stage.

Addressing an audience of around 100 delegates, representing registered social landlords (RSLs) and other key stakeholders in the Scotland’s housing sector, the Minister said: “Housing and in particular social housing matter and we want all people in Scotland to live in high quality sustainable homes that they can afford and that meet their needs.

“Over the lifetime of this Parliament, our investment in affordable housing will be over £1.7 billion – and we will exceed our target of providing 30,000 affordable homes across Scotland. To the end of June this year we have delivered over 28,000 affordable homes – this includes over 19,000 homes for social rent which is 96% of our target.

“And while our primary focus remains on delivering much needed homes for social rent, we are also determined to do all we can to increase the supply of housing across all tenures in Scotland.”

The Conference is hosted by Harper Macleod, which is independently ranked as a leading adviser on social housing and works with housing associations of all sizes around the country.

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Derek Hogg and Professor Lorne Crerar of Harper Macleod with Housing Minister Margaret Burgess at the National Housing Conference

Derek Hogg, Partner and Head of Housing at Harper Macleod, said: "Once again, we are extremely grateful to our speakers for contributing to the conference at a time when housing policy is moving up the political agenda right across the UK.

“Events such as our NHC are all about communication between everyone who is working towards a positive future for the sector, whatever your role, and having the Minister and others here today is an example of that approach. The past few years have been a testing time for many RSLs however today we have seen more signs that these challenges are being responded to by innovation and collaboration among housing providers.”

David Orr, pictured above, opened the conference by examining the future for housing in the UK. As one of the most prominent figures and commentators in the UK’s social housing sector, he focused on the importance of governance, leadership and the need to put housing at the top of the Government’s priorities.

His talk, along with that of the Minister, sparked passionate debate among delegates during the panel Q&A which followed the morning talks.

Other speakers on the main stage included Jim Lashmar and Jo-Anne Morgan of housing consultants Altair, who offered a view of the lessons that can be learned from looking at housing on both sides of the Border.

And the main stage closed with another panel session following a thought-provoking talk from Professor Douglas Robertson, Professor of Sociology & Housing at the University of Stirling’s School of Applied Science, on ‘breaking away from the self-imposed and limiting constraints of the current housing narrative’. Professor Robertson used lessons from the history of social housing and the current situation where more people are in poverty to project what the future landscape might look like in Scotland.

The conference also allowed delegates to attend a series of breakout groups led by respected figures in the housing sector, tackling key issues for housing providers including tenure diversification, new rules on procurement, the impact of welfare reform, and funding options.