Number of new homes falls to lowest level for eight years
The supply of new homes delivered in Scotland fell by a third in one year to reach the lowest total in eight years as the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on the housebuilding sector, official figures have found.
The latest compendium annual housing statistics, published yesterday by Scotland’s chief statistician, revealed that the total new housing supply in 2020-21 was 15,360 homes, based on combining the newly collected figures on net conversions with previously published figures on all-sector new housebuilding completions and affordable housing supply rehabilitations. This is a decrease of 7,687 homes (33%) on the 23,047 homes in 2019-20, and is the first annual decrease in total new housing supply since 2012-13, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across different types of housing supply activity.
As reported in previous quarterly housing statistics releases, the financial year 2020-21 saw decreases in completions for housing association new builds by 1,840 homes (44%), private-led new builds by 5,344 homes (33%), local authority new builds by 57 homes (4%), and refurbishments by 223 homes (67%). However, the more recent 12-month period to June 2021 has seen an increase of 1,751 homes (10%) in all-sector new housebuilding completions compared with the previous year.
The publication incorporates figures covering the latest two years since the previous annual housing statistics were last published in September 2019, with the subsequent publications having been delayed due to the impacts of COVID-19 on data provision and staff resourcing. The figures presented for 2020-21 will reflect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting levels of housing supply and various aspects of local authority housing across this period.
Newly collected figures from local authorities show that there were 452 all-sector net new housing dwellings from conversions in 2020-21, a decrease of 223 homes (33%) on the 675 net new dwellings in 2019-20.
As at 31 March 2020 there were an estimated 2.6 million dwellings in Scotland, with an estimated 58% of dwellings being owner-occupied, 4% being vacant or second homes, 15% being private rented or where the household is living rent free, and 23% being social rented properties.
At the same time, there were a total of 318,369 local authority dwellings, an increase of 1,461 (0.5%) on the 316,908 dwellings in 2020, and the third consecutive annual increase in local authority stock since 2018. Separate figures from the Scottish Housing Regulator show that housing association stock increased by 1,539 (0.5%) to 292,951 dwellings over the year to 31 March 2021, which results in total social sector housing stock of 611,320 dwellings as at 31 March 2021, compared to 608,320 dwellings in the previous year.
Local authorities reported 9,813 units of vacant stock as at 31 March 2021, an increase of 18% (1,482 units) on the 8,331 units in the previous year, with some of this increase likely to have been due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During 2020-21 there were 19,630 permanent local authority lettings made, a decrease of 6,376 lets (25%) compared with the previous year, with the total number of lets made likely to have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
There were 32 local authority tenancy terminations (evictions and abandonments) in 2020-21, a decrease from the 1,151 terminations in 2019-20 due to restrictions on evictions brought in due to COVID-19 legislation.
As at 31 March 2021, 178,260 applications were recorded on local authority or common housing register housing lists, an 8% increase on the 164,946 applications recorded in 2020, with the figure in the latest year likely to have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a reduction in the overall number of local authority lets during 2020-21.
There were 14,862 houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licences in force as at 31 March 2021, with more than 90% accounted for by six local authorities – Aberdeen City, Dundee City, City of Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow City, and Stirling.
In 2020-21, 4,516 scheme of assistance grants were paid to private home owners, a 42% decrease (or 3,207 fewer grants) than 2019-20. Scheme of Assistance grants totalled £18.5 million, which is around £8m less than in 2019-20.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said that a total of 108,106 affordable homes had been built since 2007.
The spokesperson said: “Ensuring everyone has access to a safe, warm and affordable place to call home is at the heart of our ambition for a fairer Scotland.
“We continue to work closely with the construction sector, through the Construction Leadership Forum, to assess shortages of both materials and labour-facing parts of the construction sector and continue to be advised of developments in this regard, as well as any impact being seen on the Affordable Housing Supply Programme.
“We are concerned that the number of people on the housing list has risen, key to helping address this is the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be available for social rent and 10% will be in our remote, rural and island communities.”