At a recent Share conference, an expert from one of the country’s leading property management companies highlighted their concerns of the time and costs implications to all of those involved in the remediation of the health and safety issues in buildings.

It was evident from the presentation that all building owners and landlords, whether they be social or private, who are expected to ensure their properties are fire safe and meet with energy efficient measures  that are to be introduced imminently, are faced with the same issues of exorbitant bills and a lack of financial or any support from the government.

The private and social rented sectors in Scotland are not known for their close collaboration. Most of the time, this makes sense, they operate in different environments, with different objectives, and (a point of much chagrin to some MSP’s and others in the social sector) different regulation and standards.

Nevertheless, regardless of the perceived differences they are both vital parts of a housing sector which is at risk of breaking down irretrievably. With multiple local authorities having already declared housing emergencies across all tenures, it is hard to ignore the sorry state of the country; homelessness has surged past pre-pandemic levels, with latest official figures showing a 10% increase in homelessness in the past year; the affordable housing budget was slashed, which will have a chilling effect on house building for the social rented sector which is already struggling with rising costs for ongoing maintenance and increased input in tenancy sustainment; and approximately 22,000 homes have been removed from the private rental market in the last 12 months, with many landlords blaming financial pressure brought about by government policies. All this without even beginning to look at the continued increase in property prices, a trend which bucks the trajectory in other parts of the UK.

There is no section of the entire rented sector that would describe the last 12 months in favourable terms. There are many industry bodies voicing these concerns to government, each pleading for more support to shore up their struggling stakeholders as they do their best to deliver much needed homes in Scotland.

Underline rather than undermine support for all housing provision

So now might be the ideal opportunity for all industry bodies to collaborate and build a coalition to present concerns as one, bigger, louder voice. The declaration of housing emergencies seems to have done little to prompt sustainable solutions from the Government, despite protestations from the areas affected. All corners of the rented sector would have been forgiven for thinking that those in power are simply not listening and if the Scottish Government are serious about tackling this crisis it would do well to underline, rather than undermine, its support for all housing provision as a priority.

As we enter a general election year, housing looks likely to feature more prominently in the Westminster contest than it has done for many years. Although housing is devolved, the discourse may be a useful vehicle for pushing for change in the Scottish context.

There may be an unease for many in this suggestion even as it is written, issues and pitfalls come to mind, lots of differences across the sectors which require different approaches. Such apprehension is entirely understandable; however, this is not about the finer details but the bigger picture, and there are always common interests to be found – the future of a thriving, safe and well-resourced Scottish housing sector is as good a place as any to start.

Both parts of the sector need clarity, funding, and support to carry out their respective obligations. There are constant struggles with increased demand, increased operating costs, tighter margins, the challenges of upgrading aging housing stock and uncertainty about the future as macro issues such as recession, war in Ukraine and the aftereffects of Brexit continue to be felt.

This is not to suggest that the rented sector merges into one big happy family, but rather that there may be occasions where it is in the interests of both the private and social sector to raise their voice in unison, in the hope that the warning calls about the dire state of the Scottish housing sector may be heard.