Housing statistics stir debate on focus of tenure for delivery

Nicola Barclay
Nicola Barclay

Housebuilders have called for the Scottish Government to adopt an all tenure approach to housing delivery after new figures revealed a fall in the number of new homes getting underway.

While yesterday’s Quarterly Housing Statistics showed a slight increase in new build completions and a 20% increase in affordable home approvals, Nicola Barclay, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, said that she was “deeply concerned” by a 5% drop in the number of new builds being started to 16,870 in 2016.

The figure was dragged down by a “worrying” private sector drop of 14%, down to 11,816, while in comparison, social sector housing starts increased by 24% to 5,054.

Ms Barclay said: “Whilst it is good to see an increase in social sector funding and consequent activity, we must recognise that this equates to only a third of homes built, and we therefore need an all-tenure approach to delivery if we are to meet the wide range of housing needs and demands of people across Scotland.

“I am deeply concerned by today’s figures which confirm the views of my members that it has never been more difficult to start sites and get much needed homes out of the ground. Obviously this continuing flat-lining of total supply is bad news in relation to the jobs and investment builders bring to our economy, but unfortunately those worst affected are the young people and growing families struggling to get on the housing ladder.

“Not only is the lack of an adequate housing supply across all tenures stifling ambition and aspiration, it is also continuing to pressurise house prices and rents as well as threatening Scotland’s future success and social well-being.”

While welcoming the increase in affordable home approvals, Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said these “need to quickly translate into affordable homes being built”.

He added: “We will only start to meaningfully tackle Scotland’s housing crisis if we can deliver a real step change in affordable housing supply. Crucially this must include a large proportion that are available for social rent at a cost people can actually afford.”

Conversely, Scottish Greens’ housing spokesperson, Andy Wightman MSP, said the quarterly statistics show that ministers are “too reliant” on the private sector to deliver its housing targets.

Mr Wightman highlighted statistics which revealed a small increase in private new build housing, compared to the previous year, while social sector builds decreased compared to the previous year.

He said: “The affordable 50,000 homes target set by ministers is ambitious, but looks unreachable without over reliance on the private sector. Scotland is in the midst of a housing crisis. However, there are solutions beyond building more private homes. For example we should be utilising the 34,000 empty homes, enhancing regulation of the short term lets sector and introducing radical land reform proposals.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about affordable housing then it is of concern that the total completions for the social sector to December 2016 is down 9% compared to the previous year.”

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