FMB Scotland warns there is ‘little to celebrate’ within Scottish housing statistics

Gordon Nelson
Gordon Nelson

New housebuilding figures for Scotland underline the severity of the challenge that the Scottish Government faces if it is to tackle the country’s housing crisis, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland has warned.

Figures published yesterday revealed that 33,490 affordable homes were delivered over the last Parliamentary term, exceeding the government’s 30,000 homes objective by more than 10 per cent.

However Gordon Nelson, director for FMB Scotland, said that despite the Scottish Government’s “favourable spin” on the statistics, “scratch the surface and there’s little to celebrate”.

He added: “According to these latest figures, total housing completions increased by 3 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014. Although this is indeed an increase, when you compare it to the growth in house building south of the border in England, which increased by 21 per cent over the same period, it pales by comparison.

“These figures demonstrate how far we are from building the number of homes that the country needs to tackle the housing crisis. House building output for 2015 is 9,000 units lower than it was in 2007, despite demand for homes soaring. That the number of housing starts in Scotland for the final quarter of 2015 was 12 per cent lower than in 2014 is particularly concerning. In light of this, the government’s ambition to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2020 may be laudable, but risks losing sight of the wider picture, at a time where there is pressing need for more homes all of tenures. The Scottish Government has celebrated today’s figures based solely on exceeding their affordable housing figures, which suggests that they do not grasp the severity of the wider house building challenge.”

Mr Nelson added: “Now is the time for the Scottish Government to concentrate on what it can do to facilitate a renaissance in house building. There are thousands of families and individuals for whom home ownership is becoming an ever-more distant dream. For the high proportion of people who aren’t eligible for social housing, the spiralling costs of privately rented accommodation will pinch hard. It’s imperative that a real effort is made to tackle an erratic planning system that stymies development and to unblock a financial system in which major banks are reluctant to lend to SME house builders which are crucial to getting Scotland building again.”

Industry body Homes for Scotland said the headline statistics mask a decline in vital private sector output for 2015.

Chief executive Nicola Barclay said: “Whilst we welcome any increase in housing supply, these figures also indicate that both private sector-led starts and completions are down on the previous quarter and on the previous year. With Scotland’s growing population having a diverse range of housing needs and aspirations, it is crucial that we recognise that affordable housing delivery, by its very nature, only meets the needs and demands of a certain proportion of the population.

“A healthy private sector is also essential given the contribution it makes to providing homes for people at other stages of their housing journey, creating a vibrant housing ladder. So we must see an increase in supply across all tenures if we are to realise the far-reaching and full benefits that home building can bring all those living in our communities - be that social, economic or environmental.

“We therefore look forward to discussions with the new Cabinet Secretary and Minister responsible for housing on how this can be achieved.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has welcomed the fact that the affordable homes target has been exceeded but warned that unresolved issues may impair future progress.

Mary Taylor, SFHA chief executive, said: “We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has met and exceeded its affordable homes target. Housing targets represent more than just an amount of new builds – people’s life chances, health and wellbeing will have been improved by securing a high quality, energy efficient, affordable home.

“Scotland desperately needs more affordable homes in order to solve its current housing crisis, and we acknowledge the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase the supply of homes by setting a new target of delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, backed by more than £3 billion, over the lifetime of this Parliament.

“However, we are aware that other factors impact on the sector’s ability to deliver increased numbers of affordable housing. The key issues are planning, infrastructure, availability of affordable land and access to skilled workers. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government, the housing association sector, local authorities and other partners to find solutions to these challenges.”

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