Scotland faces a range of distinct challenges when it comes to creating high-quality, sustainable and attractive places for people to live. The task of building more homes has arguably been made even more difficult with disruption to labour provision resulting from the UK’s departure from the EU, complex planning processes, and the inflationary crisis causing the price of building materials to skyrocket.
The ongoing housing crisis, combined with these perilous conditions, requires, at the very least, a creative approach with a constant focus on sustainability.
There is no single solution. However, Scotland’s cities have a crucial role to play. In the mid-20th century, Glasgow’s population was in excess of one million. Today, the city is home to only around 635,000 citizens, a significant decrease. Of course, no one is advocating for a return to the days of overcrowded tenement slums. My dad often reminds me how difficult those days were, when the concept of not having to share a toilet with every other family in the close was an unimaginable luxury.
A renewed focus on modern city living, as part of a wider strategy of housebuilding across urban and rural communities does, however, have the potential to address the housing crisis and transform cities like Glasgow for the better.
City leaders have recognised that Glasgow has an unusually small city centre population, lagging Manchester, Liverpool and other comparable cities across Europe. In response to this, the council approved a strategy to grow Glasgow’s city centre population to over 40,000 over the next fifteen years. This work is already well underway with plans recently approved for demolition of the St Enoch shopping centre and the redevelopment of the surrounding area.
These potentially transformational developments rely on continued investment, so for city centre living to help solve both the housing and climate crisis, it is vital that Glasgow continues to be an attractive place to invest.
Additionally, Glasgow’s approach to creating more homes isn’t exclusively focussed on this part of the city. Aside from house-building work being carried out across the city by housing associations and private developers, the council is supporting an innovative approach which empowers individuals to build their own homes.
A self-build pilot saw six previously overlooked plots in Maryhill utilised by individuals to create unique homes. One even featured on an episode of Grand Designs, with a local couple building an American ranch-style home on a relatively modest budget of £170,000. This policy, like city centre housing, is by no means a complete solution to the housing crisis, but alternative approaches like this do have a valuable part to play.
Today, policymakers are faced with overlapping issues like the housing crisis, tackling climate change and the current cost of living crisis. In short, building housing that is disconnected from economic and social opportunities is not the solution. In cities like Glasgow, we need more homes which complement existing urban spaces, reduce car reliance and support people to live truly fulfilling lives.
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