LGiU Scotland attended the most recent Scotland Future’s Forum event, which was a debate on the topic of housing and ageing. Hosted in conjunction with the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Groups on Housing and on Older People, Age and Ageing, the event showcased recent research by expert academics across Scotland (Housing and Ageing: Linking strategy to future delivery for Scotland, Wales and England 2030).
Andy Wightman MSP, the convenor of the CPG on Housing, chaired the event, and Dr Vicki McCall, the project lead, presented the research findings. The project used a ‘serious game’ (called Hopetown) to engage stakeholders in a discussion about the pressures and opportunities in providing housing for Scotland’s growing population. This innovative approach was backed by a number of expert researchers and funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute. Age Scotland and Scottish Federation of Housing Associations were also involved closely in the research process.
Vicki began by outlining how existing research has overlooked the notion of home, and the importance of people, personhood and community networks. She explained that the game was created through co-production between numerous groups and aimed to break down assumptions and create a level playing field, in order to plan well for the future. In making the game, they utilised learning from England and Wales.
The game involves making various decisions that change the actions of various interest groups (older people, housing association, developers etc) and this is reflected in the outcomes. The game is designed to be done over a half-day period and has a researcher observing the decisions made and the outcomes. It is played on a board depicting Hopetown: the people who lived there, different districts, available housing, environmental quality, transport links and more. It was set across twelve years, with a fresh budget introduced every four years. Players are split into four teams: policy makers, developers, service providers, and older people. Events were held throughout May 2018 to bring people together to play this game, and they intended to combine different approaches to be transdisciplinary. You can read more about the details of the game and what happened in its various iterations in the Housing and Ageing Final Report.
There were a number of themes that emerged when playing the game, including the centrality of people and thinking about housing more holistically. Particularly important was the idea of helping people to age well by thinking outside the box for solutions. Most stakeholders realised, after a couple of iterations of the game, that without placing people and communities at the centre of the strategy, it wouldn’t work. It was also found to be important that housing should be placed at the heart of service integration, which highlights the role of integrated joint boards (IJBs) and the importance of joined-up working.
Following Vicki’s presentation, the floor was opened to questions and debate. The importance of services when it comes to new homes and planning was emphasised, as well as the fact that accessible housing helps everyone, not just older people. Age Scotland helped to demonstrate the rural perspective, which was very useful to the research, and highlighted the Lifetime Homes programme taking place in North Ayrshire – where all new homes have to be adaptable to changing needs throughout life, with 25% of new stock being bespoke to the needs of older people specifically.
Other questions covered issues about climate change, sustainability and tenures. The research team outlined that a healthy housing sector has a healthy amount of different types of tenures (social rent, private rent, owner-occupied etc), and that they had put issues of climate change and sustainability at the heart of this project.
The hour-long event ended with a brief conclusion from Vicki and the other researchers, as well as from Andy himself. The event was really interesting, especially learning about the Hopetown game and what impact this may have on housing policy in Scotland in the long-term.