Scotland’s Housing Network Annual Gathering

7 December 2022

The SHN annual gathering returned as an in-person event this year for the first time since 2019. It was a good occasion to get to meet colleagues in real life and network with those whom we have not seen for a couple of years. This was as true for those from other organisations as it was for colleagues from our own organisations whom we tend to meet on Teams or Zoom these days. Perhaps this was the reason for the large attendance with many people making the trip to Edinburgh for this year’s event.

The first session was an eagerly anticipated update from the Regulator on the key challenges for the sector, primarily on the rising costs facing landlords and their tenants. The update covered the emergency rent freeze legislation and the moratorium on evictions which ministers can continue beyond March 2023, although landlords will have to be advised of this by the 14th of January. The Regulator noted that social rents had risen by 16.2% over the last six years which, when annualised, is 2.5% per annum.  It was interesting to note that many landlords’ rent rises are below their business plan needs. A further update was provided on the revised asset management guidance. The government, supported by Arneil Johnston, is currently working on a principals-based approach to asset management guidance with the final document being issued towards the end of this year. The Regulator also noted that the annual risk assessment this year will focus on performance in delivery of service to tenants, including the quality of the stock.

There were many interesting subjects covered by the morning breakout sessions and my colleagues and I attended the session given by Simon Roberts and Vicki Harris of the Scottish Government.  Vicki spoke about the new single housing standard for Scotland which will apply across all tenures. Following on from the cross-party working group on tenement maintenance the government will be working on the reform of tenement law which will include mandatory resident’s associations; five-yearly cyclical inspections; and building sinking funds. The Scottish law commission are involved in this work which will result in a new tenant maintenance law in 2026. Simon Roberts gave an overview of the EESSH2 review. Currently the EESSH2 target is not aligned with net zero and the review will set a new 2032 to target which is aligned with the 2045 net zero target. Interim guidance on EESSH reporting during the period of the review will be issued week beginning beginning 31st of October and will be emailed to all RSLs.

After a very nice lunch the afternoon sessions took place. My colleagues and I attended the session led by Trudi Tokarczyk of the Network and Stephen Connor of TIS to hear all about their work on understanding tenants’ views on climate change and how landlords should be engaging and consulting with our tenants on this subject. Trudi took us through the outcomes of the recent tenant’s survey which was carried out and Stephen led an interactive discussion on how we could communicate better with tenants. A useful framework and toolkit has been developed by TIS and this will be made available to members along with the final report on the survey.

The final session of the day covered the application of behavioural science and technology in housing and was also very informative. All in this was an excellent event to be part of. Members’ participation was encouraged in the breakout sessions which made for good discussion and exchange of good practice and the many questions from the floor were answered well by the presenters. This made for a worthwhile event for all who attended.