THE solution to the housing emergency is more social housing. That is easier said than done given the time between commitment and completion. But since the SNP came to power, Scotland was and is making far better progress on delivery than the UK Government and the English councils.

We shouldn’t forget the private and self-housebuilding sector either, who make a significant contribution too.

Might I suggest some low-hanging fruit which might be considered along with more fundamental proposals.

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The original social housing was council houses. Some 500,000 were sold to sitting tenants under Right to Buy. Given their original purpose, the Scottish Parliament could legislate that all houses originally built as social housing must be used as the principal home of the current and future owners or a tenant.

Unfortunately there are no official statistics of how many former council houses are used as second homes or short-term tenancies, but the title sheets will prove that they were originally social housing.

Owners then have the option to sell, move in or rent to a local resident. If they sell then they should realise the market value. A year from such enabling legislation should be enough to see some change to housing, especially in tourist areas.

The Scottish Government should grant deemed-time-limited planning consent for four homesteads on every farm in Scotland with very few strings attached. That exercise should reduce the price of plots and be a boost to rural housing.

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The introduction of land taxation on all land and property will cause public and private-sector land owners to release land for little or no price to avoid the liability of payment of the tax if the land does not provide an economic return. The unit price of new builds and conversions should be reduced as a result.

Post-war prefabs provided a much needed, if temporary, solution. Other countries provide much of their permanent housing through prefabs so there is no reason why technology can’t provide these in significant numbers. All council areas should have factories geared up to provide them. It’s nil to the public and private sectors to make this happen. In cases where there is a shortage of skilled trades, while we address the skill shortage we should approach a country like South Africa with a large unemployment problem to build prefabs to our spec and we can ship them here.

Serious consideration should be given to a national mortgage for genuine home buyers at a fixed rate over 25 years. The simpler that it is, the better.

There has been such a plague of remortgages since the Big Bang that folk have lost sight of the hidden costs of constant remortgaging. So much so that, if we had a crystal ball, all our remortgaging has probably not saved us anything over the same term as our original mortgage deal would have done.

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I recall a few years ago suggesting a national mortgage to a member of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisors. He said that we couldn’t compete with the private sector, of which he was a leading light. Well, we all have experience of the challenges of that sector. He now advises the Labour Party.

Finally, we don’t have a housing crisis; we have an accommodation crisis. We have more houses than ever before but lifestyles have changed.

Most houses are under-occupied. Government could offer incentives such as free legal fees and home reports for owners to sell large properties so they can downsize, thus opening up the possibility of reducing the number of under-occupied homes while reducing their heating and other housing bills.

The scheme could impose conditions on who could qualify, such as prospective purchasers who have been resident in Scotland for a minimum period.

A similar scheme could also encourage the exchange of rented property.

There are so many other initiatives possible, but I hope that these might spark a reaction.

Graeme McCormick