Affordable homes in Scotland to be digitally-enabled
Affordable homes delivered by councils across Scotland are to be digitally-enabled with “ready-to-go” internet connections.
The ambition, which is set out in the Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 strategy, comes after the importance of digital connectivity in the home environment was thrown into sharp relief by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The digital vision will be financed by an increased funding commitment for local authority areas announced earlier this month.
According to the Scottish housing secretary Shona Robison, council areas are to share more than £3.2 billion in grant funding over five years to deliver more affordable homes – a 20 per cent increase of more than £541 million on the previous five year allocation.
In recognition of digital connectivity as “an important driver of economic and social benefits”, the 20-year route map reads: “[We will] work with the sector to deliver digital connectivity in new social homes, aiming to provide ready-to-go internet connections.
“Digital connectivity is an essential way to stay connected to friends and family, as well as opening out access to employment, learning and cultural activity.
“We will therefore drive forward work to phase in the requirement from 2021/22 that all new build social rented homes delivered through the ‘affordable housing supply programme’ are digitally- enabled, including when those are off-the-shelf purchases from private developers.”
Following the announcement of increased funding to deliver more affordable homes, a Scottish Government spokesperson confirmed that it is “phasing in the requirement for all new-build social rented homes delivered through our affordable housing supply programme to be digitally-enabled”.
They added: “This will mean when a tenant gets the keys to their home that they are able to arrange for an internet connection to ‘go live’ without the internet service provider having to provide additional cabling to the premises. We will issue guidance on this to the sector over the coming months.”
The news has been welcomed by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).
Stacey Dingwall, senior policy manager of SFHA, said: “SFHA supports measures to improve digital connectivity and access for tenants. Not only is digital connectivity important for everyday life, including social contact, managing finances and accessing employment, but it has a key role to play in helping people to live safely and well at home through the use of technology.
“The challenge, as ever, will be ensuring there is investment not only to implement this but to help improve people’s digital skills. There is much to welcome in Housing to 2040, including innovative proposals such as ensuring all homes are built to the same standards of accessibility, which SFHA had been calling for.
“We will work with the Scottish Government and our members to ensure the Housing to 2040 strategy is realised.”
Local authorities are responsible for assessing housing requirements in their area and setting out their plans to meet these requirements as part of their Local Housing Strategy and Strategic Housing Investment Plan.
Stirling Council announced this week that it was earmarked £53 million funding by the Scottish Government to build affordable homes over the next five years.
A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “All new homes delivered in the Stirling Council area have the necessary infrastructure to allow an internet connection. At present, we leave the choice of internet service provider to our tenants so they can have the flexibility to choose a package which is best suited to their budget and needs.”
And yesterday the Western Isles Council announced it will be receiving £43m for affordable housing in the region.
Housing to 2040, Scotland’s first long-term national housing strategy, sets out a vision for housing in Scotland to 2040 and outlines how to get there. It aims to deliver the government’s ambition for everyone “to have a safe, good quality and affordable home that meets their needs in the place they want to be”.
The route map also includes a proposal for a new Housing Bill in order to take forward further reforms in the rented sector and increase the rights of tenants.