Agent's concern

Open door policy to house Ukrainians ‘not practical’

Scotland has a huge shortage of properties (pic: Terry Murden)

A Scottish estate agent has described Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘open door’ policy on Ukrainian refugees as laudable but likely to exacerbate a huge housing crisis in Scotland.

David Alexander said the First Minister’s view that there should be no limit to the number of refugees allowed in to the country “is an understandable and admirable response”.

But he said there are difficulties admitting thousands of people when there isn’t enough accommodation available.

Mr Alexander, chief executive of DJ Alexander Scotland, said: “Everybody has been appalled and distressed by the invasion of Ukraine and our hearts go out to the people of that country confronted by the brutality of Russian oppression.

“There is an understandable feeling among all of us of wanting to do something and as part of that all countries are accepting refugees to their towns and cities.

David Alexander
David Alexander: ‘we would struggle to house an influx of people’

“The problem is that Scotland is woefully short of available accommodation. It is all very well to say we don’t want to place any limits on how many refugees the country will accept but the practical reality is that there is very little spare capacity in any sector.”

The latest Scottish Government data – which is from 2019 – shows there are 132,029 on a waiting list for social housing.

Mr Alexander said the private rented sector is currently facing an “unprecedented shortage of housing stock which nobody has ever experienced before.”

He added: “My own firm, for example, has just 64 properties available at the moment when we would normally have hundreds of homes to let at this time of year. In addition, we are expecting an enormous influx of EU citizens returning to work in Scotland this summer and we will struggle to house them if there is not a substantial upturn in properties available.”

He concluded: “The problem, as it has been for some time, is that there are too few properties to rent on the market, and insufficient being built to meet the growing needs of the Scottish population.

“I believe that it is only by having a frank and open discussion among all interested parties that we will resolve this issue in the long term. The Scottish Government needs to ensure it engages fully with house builders and property developers, the private rented sector, and social housing in developing an appropriate strategy to ensure we have sufficient homes for Scots in the future.

“In this way we will create a property market which benefits everyone. In the short term I can only hope that as many Ukrainian refugees are found homes as quickly as possible.”

The latest social sector new housebuilding figures to end March 2021 show that 1,513 social sector homes were completed in the quarter January to March 2021.

While this was an increase of 19% (246 homes) on the previous quarter October to December 2020, it was a decrease of 22% (415 homes) on the 1,928 social sector completions in the previous year January to March 2020.

This brings the total number of completions for the 12 months to end March 2021 to 3,785, a decrease of 33% (1,887 homes) on the 5,672 social sector homes completed in the previous year.

While activity levels were undoubtedly affected by COVID-19 lockdown measures the fact remains that pre-pandemic annual building figures were under 6,000.

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