Coronavirus hits delivery of social sector homes



The impact of lockdown on social sector housebuilding has been laid bare in new statistics with a 67% drop in starts (407 homes) recorded between April to June 2020 on the same quarter in 2019, a 98% fall in completions (20 homes).

Quarterly statistics on housebuilding and affordable housing supply published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician found there were 21,910 new-build homes completed across all sectors in Scotland in the year to end March 2020. This is an increase of 3% (722 homes) on the previous year. Increases were seen across private-led completions (3%, or 528 homes), housing association completions (3%, or 118 homes) and local authority completions (5%, or 76 homes).

The number of new-build homes started across all sectors also increased in the year to end March 2020, with a total of 24,458 starts, an increase of 9% (1,954 homes) on the previous year. Local authority starts increased by 18% (328 homes), housing association approvals increased by 37% (1,636 homes), whilst private-led starts dropped slightly by 0.1% (10 homes).

More recent figures published as part of the UK House Price Index show a total of 1,114 new-build sales transactions in Scotland in the month of October 2020. This is an increase of 47 transactions (4%) on October 2019, indicating a recovery in the level of monthly private-led new housebuilding sales transactions following the reduced levels of activity between April and June 2020 due to COVID-19 measures.

There were 1,918 affordable housing supply homes completed in the latest quarter, October to December 2020, an increase of 861 homes on the previous quarter, and 1,721 homes more than the quarter April to June 2020. This reflects the re-starting of housing supply activity after restrictions on construction and housing market activity were eased from late June onwards.

The number of affordable homes approved and started also increased over the latest two quarters: approvals between October and December 2020 were over double (1,062 homes more) the amount in the previous quarter and 1,205 homes more than the quarter from April to June 2020. Starts between October and December 2020 were up by 11% (221 homes) on the previous quarter, and by 1,429 homes on April to June 2020.

The latest annual figures on affordable housing supply also show the impact of COVID-19 on activity levels. In the year to December 2020 there were a total of 10,066 approvals recorded (down 15%, or 1,764 homes, on 2019); 9,806 starts (down 11%, or 1,166 homes); and 6,655 completions (down 30%, or 2,846 homes).

Stacey Dingwall, senior policy manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said: “These latest statistics clearly show the impact of pausing construction due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last week, the Scottish Government released its Housing to 2040 strategy which committed to completing the current Affordable Housing Supply Programme of 50,000 homes as well as to delivering 100,000 homes by 2032, and it’s vital that, no matter the outcome of May’s election, this is delivered.

“In order to continue tackling housing need, Scotland requires 53,000 affordable homes, including 37,100 for social rent, to be delivered during the next parliament. However, SFHA research has identified rising development costs, therefore, in order to be able to deliver these homes – and to the required quality standards, while keeping rents affordable – we must also see a commitment to investment rising in line with increasing costs. SFHA is currently working with the government and other stakeholders to ensure this is reflected in the funding committed to the next programme.”