New data

Slump in housebuilding laid bare in new figures

Construction, housebuilding
Housebuilding in Scotland has fallen sharply (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

A housing crisis in Scotland has been made starkly clear by a slump in the number of houses being built, says a sector leader.

Completions across all types of homes fell to 20,992 last year, down 11% on 2022, while the number of starts plummeted by a quarter (24%) to 16,017.

There were 12,752 private sector home starts, the lowest level since 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted housebuilding. Before this, 2013 was the lowest number. Private sector completions fell by 9%.

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said inflation, supply chain issues and labour shortages linked to Brexit had created a “challenging environment”.

On the plus side, Scotland has delivered more than 128,000 affordable homes since April 2007, over 70% of which were for social rent, he said.

Of these, 10,462 were delivered in the 2022-23 financial year, equating to 19.1 homes delivered per 10,000 population, 69% higher than the rate in England (11.3) and also higher than Northern Ireland (11.4) and Wales (10.6).

“Despite UK Government cuts to the capital budget, the Scottish Government also continues to invest heavily to support housing supply,” said Mr McLennan.

The figures were published as a fourth local authority – Fife – declared a housing emergency this week, following Argyll & Bute, Edinburgh and Glasgow councils in the past few months. In December the affordable housing budget was cut by nearly £200 million.

Jane Wood, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, was unimpressed by the figures and the explanation.

“With four local authorities having already declared local housing emergencies, alongside today’s figures, what further evidence does the Scottish Government require to act?” she said.

Jane Wood
Jane Wood: what further evidence do ministers need? (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

“Frankly, Scotland’s population and the sector that provides homes for our communities deserve better than the same tired response that Brexit, cost price inflation and Westminster are the main causes of the housing crisis.

“Of course these are significant issues, but nowhere near as pressing as the challenges posed by an underfunded and under-resourced planning system which takes over 62 weeks to process a major housing application or the overall policy and regulatory environment which currently serves to hamper the delivery of new homes rather than promote them; both of these are entirely within the control of the Scottish Government.

“Rather than benchmarking a less bad completions rate against other parts of the UK, now is the time to take the bold action required to support housing delivery across all tenures.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Paul McGarry said: “Everyone deserves a warm and secure place to live but they cannot rely on the Scottish Government to play their part in delivering fresh homes.

“The SNP’s disastrous budget drives a coach and horse through any pretence that this government cares about the housing emergency.”

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said “Scotland is in the grips of a housing emergency, from record homelessness to exorbitant rents to soaring house prices – but the SNP-Green government is posted missing.

“The SNP-Green government is not only failing to act, but it is actively fanning the flames of the housing emergency with brutal budget cuts.”

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