Campaign option No.6: More detailed housing statistics

It’s an occupational hazard, running a media outlet such as Place Design Scotland: there is never any shortage of ideas, including potential campaigns and projects. We have decided to let the readers decide which one we should seriously consider pursuing, and will be launching a poll of members in due course. Our sixth candidate is… drum roll, please… More detailed housing statistics

THIS is perhaps less of a campaign and more of a straightforward plea.

It is a plea for additional joined-up thinking.

Every so often, the Scottish Government issues data about new-build house completions, including details of so-called ‘affordable’ housing – however ‘affordability’ is defined.

Its latest statistical report on the topic was published only yesterday, on June 14 2022 – here.

Of course, it goes without saying that tackling the perceived shortage of ‘affordable’ housing in the country is a major ambition of the government.

But what is arguably missing from the number-crunching are elements key to other ambitions.

The Scottish Government is seeking to reduce car emissions (as articulated in its enthusiasm for so-called ’20-minute neighbourhoods’) and to save on energy use (part of a wider climate change challenge, of which car use is also a part).

This is potential additional information that could be included in the house-building completions-and-starts data currently making up the bulk of the above-mentioned statistical research.

That completions, etc research is detailed, down to single properties, so someone, somewhere is compiling the information to a very granular level.

Sort of relevant information can be found on the Scottish Household Survey, but it is a separate document, thus requiring to be read in at least in parallel, and, anyway, doesn’t quite hit the brief.

So, the plea is simply for the inclusion of barely a couple of additional columns to the housing stats ‘spreadsheet’: not least estimated walking time to the nearest pint of milk, school, GP, pub, etc and also the energy efficiency standard (or estimated energy bills) of the buildings that have been completed or have been begun.

Indeed, if you want to get even more detailed, one might want to ask of every new house that’s been or being built: to what extent is it part of a car sharing scheme and how many square metres has been allocated to car parking?

To not know these other pieces of potentially vital statistics is to potentially render as useless (at the very least, possibly accusations of ‘window dressing’) those other ambitions – about 20-minute neighbourhoods, place design, climate change, etc.

If you don’t ask, how will you ever know?

Mike Wilson is a member of the Place Design Scotland team

Picture credit: Place Design Scotland