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Developing new initiatives that support the delivery of more housing across Scotland

Scottish Government has set out plans to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 so that everyone has a good quality home that they can afford and that meets their needs.

Our Housing team is responsible for developing initiatives that support the delivery of those homes.

The team draws on its technical, financial, legal and commercial skills to shape and structure our activity, working closely with colleagues across the business as well as across Scottish Government, the wider public and private sectors as well as with Scotland’s communities.

Over the years our various housing initiatives have contributed toward Scotland's housing targets and we are engaged in the development of a number of solutions that are supporting the delivery of more housing. 

Details of the various housing initiatives we are leading on are listed below.

Housing to 2040 outlines the role that town centre living plays in achieving stronger communities, tackling societal and environmental issues, and creating vibrant places to live.

The expansion of town centre living is a key component of the 2021 Town Centre Action Plan (TCAP), recognising that there is good demand and a strong rationale, but there has been limited and small-scale activity with developments facing a wide range of constraints and obstacles.

Scottish Government’s response to the refreshed TCAP outlines a series of actions to support an increase in the volume and range of activity, including policy alignment and demonstrator project investment.

Our Housing team is supporting the expansion of town centre living, with the aim of delivering more town centre housing.

Bringing together the collective experience of key partners, we are working to analyse barriers and opportunities, explore good practice, and identify the need for any change in policy, practice or investment.

We are also working with local authorities to support the development of town centre living project proposals, helping to ensure that more homes are delivered in the places that people want to live.

Building on the need for a broader mix of housing types and tenancies across Scotland, we are exploring the potential for local authorities to deliver market level housing, for rent and for sale. 

While there are lots of places in Scotland with strong market activity, there are many with high levels of demand but low, or no, developer interest to build new homes.

Building on a research paper we developed with the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers we have obtained legal opinion on the basis and structure for the development of council-built homes for rent and sale. 

During 2023 we sought further legal opinion on practical delivery based on five notional case studies, a copy of which can be accessed here.

A summary of our work around Council Build for market value rent and sale is available here.

We continue to work with partners to explore potential opportunities and build our understanding with the aim of providing a ‘proof of concept’ for delivery of a wider mix of housing in places where there is an imbalance in supply and demand.

HOME is a new way of delivering affordable homes that provides an easier route to homeownership for first-time buyers and also offers an alternative option for older homeowners who want to move to a house that is right for their needs.   

HOME also provides a new way for local authorities and Registered Social Landlords to deliver affordable homes without public subsidy, with our Housing team reworking the shared ownership model.

The target markets for HOME are:

  • Aspiring first-time buyers who want to step onto the housing ladder but struggle to qualify for a commercial mortgage for a variety of reasons, including difficulties saving for a deposit
  • Older owner-occupiers who would like to move to a house that is right for their changing needs but who do not have enough equity to secure that home on the open market

Our pathfinder project is with North Ayrshire Council and more information on this project can be found here.

To support Scotland’s local authorities increase the supply of mid-market rent homes to meet rapidly growing demand, back in 2011 we launched the National Housing Trust (NHT) programme.

The premise behind the NHT programme was that housing developers would be appointed to build a specified number of homes for affordable rent on land they already owned.

Once complete, a local company in the form of a limited liability partnership would be established comprising the developer, the participating local authority and ourselves. The partnership then buys the homes and lets them to tenants at affordable rent for between five and ten years, after which the properties would be sold, either to the tenants or to a Registered Social Landlord.

In total, 1,731 NHT homes were built across 12 local authority areas.

And on the back of the NHT programme,  the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) wished to continue to expand the supply of mid-market rent (MMR) homes while also wishing to seize the opportunity to create a bank of affordable, quality housing that could be used to tackle additional pressures across Edinburgh’s housing market.

Working together, our Housing team, CEC and Scottish Government developed a new funding model which would allow CEC to purchase MMR homes using funds ‘on-lent’ from the Public Works Loan Board, assisted by a grant allocated by Scottish Government.

Edinburgh Living was launched in 2019 and has 344 homes occupied for mid-market rent, with 250 more homes in its 2022/23 pipeline. CEC has used these homes to provide quality, stable accommodation to families in locations across the city, improving the diversity of communities, helping regenerate parts of Edinburgh.

Our Housing team is committed to working closely with partners and key stakeholders to progress strategic residential sites across Scotland in order to unlock the delivery of more housing that will create better places and produce positive economic outcomes. 

In selecting sites to work on, the Housing team seeks sites that:

  • Are of strategic importance and are aligned with local, city and national policy objectives
  • Deliver wider outcomes beyond just housing
  • Face challenges to delivery that have the potential to be overcome with targeted resources
  • Present an opportunity to implement the ‘Place Principle’

Examples of the solutions that the team has developed, or are in the process of developing, in collaboration with partners are detailed here:

  • A bespoke guarantee that unlocked the funding for a secondary school at a strategic housing site at Winchburgh, West Lothian
  • Exploring ways to bridge the gap between local authorities forward funding enabling infrastructure and developer contributions being paid
  • Local authorities taking a more direct delivery role for housing across all tenures to move land in their ownership forward to delivery
  • Using innovative funding mechanisms for affordable housing to unlock sites

Our team


Neil Rutherford

Senior Associate Director

Neil is an experienced infrastructure specialist who passionately believes in empowering Scotland’s communities and organisations to shape and deliver more resilient places: this contributes to achieving better outcomes, lives and opportunities.

This ethos is embedded in his current role, leading the Place, Housing and Economic Investment teams, with a track record of delivering change and investment.

During his time at SFT he has been involved in a number of SFT initiatives, working closely with partners, to deliver successful outcomes in economic investment and digital.

Prior to SFT, Neil was a key member of a leading public sector advisory practice and started his career in banking.


Niall Curran

Associate Director

Niall provides financial and corporate expertise across the Place, Housing and Economic Investment workstreams. 

His focus is affordable housing delivery by public sector partners, with and without private sector partnership, in ways that lead to sustainable, resilient places and strong public outcomes, drawing on his experience in securing positive outcomes for the National Housing Trust programme. He joined SFT in 2019 and in his team-spanning role, works on wider investment activity that achieve our Corporate Priorities of Net Zero, Inclusive Growth, and Sustainable Places - including Green Growth Accelerator.

Niall is a Chartered Accountant, with six years’ experience in his previous role at a leading professional services firm performing audits across a range of clients and industries, including latterly investment management.


Jenny Davies

Associate Director

Jenny is a lawyer with over 15 years’ experience gained in the public and private sector and joined SFT in 2021.  Jenny provides legal support to the National Housing Trust programme and supporting Housing Delivery Partnerships, to ensure positive outcomes for these programmes and their tenants. 

Jenny also provides support across other areas of the business using her wide breadth of knowledge in areas such as commercial property, renewables and data.  


Mhairi Donaghy

Associate Director

Mhairi is an economic development professional with over 30 years’ experience across public sector regeneration project delivery and private sector economic research consultancy. 

She joined SFT in 2021 and leads our work in Town Centre Living and Council Build Housing for Market Rent and Sale. She supports colleagues across SFT, to guide project and programme development that delivers benefits for local people and places.

Mhairi is a Board Member with Scotland’s Towns Partnership.