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The Contribution of Housing, Planning and Regeneration Policies to Mixed Communities in Scotland



4.1 This brief study sought to identify how regeneration, planning and housing policies in Scotland might be contributing to mixed communities. Mixed communities arise from a complicated interaction between national policies, programmes and funding streams, local discretion and use of these, and market forces. Although mixed communities cannot be pinned down to particular named policies, the link between social housing and concentrations of deprivation mean that housing and planning policies have a crucial role to play. Major mainstream activities such as the Affordable Housing Investment Programme do not address mixed communities specifically, but the scale of their funding and extent of their effects mean that they are central to mixed communities outcomes.

4.2 The majority of new social housing is still funded through public grant. The study finds that housing secured with these public funds is highly concentrated in areas which have high levels of deprivation. Since social housing is likely to house more disadvantaged households, this investment is not contributing to mixed communities. It is, of course, providing high-quality, affordable and secure accommodation to those in genuine housing need and who might otherwise be inadequately housed. Since land is more expensive in less deprived areas, using grant to build in areas of lower deprivation would likely mean building fewer units at higher cost each. Any decision to do so would have to come from a confident view of how much mixed communities are worth paying for. Contributions of housing through Section 75 are currently providing new social housing in non-deprived areas, and they are increasing in importance. The contribution of this policy to mixed communities depends on local authorities' willingness and confidence to use the powers. It may therefore be worth investigating further why there are differences between authorities in how much Section 75 housing they secure. The contribution of this policy may also be undermined by moves to accept cash payments or land in lieu of affordable dwellings. One approach may be, as in some authorities in England, to apply a presumption that contributions should be made on site as dwellings unless there is a demonstrable reason to commute payments.

4.3 The complex nature of individual local regeneration projects is less easy to summarise in quantitative form. Aside from the major people-based regeneration funding streams, there are clear examples of approaches that combine housing, physical and social interventions to create more mixed communities in existing deprived social housing areas. The research only drew on a small number of regeneration projects in major cities; it may be important to consider whether smaller authorities have the resources, and also access to important discretionary funding streams, to address similar concentrations of deprivation within their areas. The interviews also suggest that sound principles of housing stock management are the starting point for identifying places with the potential and need for such intervention. There is realism about the scope for mixed-tenure redevelopment to provide the financial means for a project as well as a desirable social mix as an outcome.