Affordable homes plan behind schedule

Challenges in the housing market have been identified. Picture: Getty
Challenges in the housing market have been identified. Picture: Getty
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It could be 20 years before enough new homes are being built to meet projected increases in the population, a report has found.

Audit Scotland’s Housing in Scotland report has identified “significant challenges” for the housing sector, which has been hit by budget cuts at a time of growing demand.

It found that local authorities and registered social landlords (RSLs) have built 14,000 fewer homes since 2005 than the Scottish Government said were needed.

The Government at that time commissioned research which found that Scotland needed more than 8,000 new affordable homes for rent each year. Although the number of new homes has increased since then, based on Audit Scotland’s own analysis, just over 42,000 of the 56,000 council and RSL homes needed to have been built.

The report found that funding for housing fell by around a quarter between 2008/09 and 2011/12 with further reductions to come.

Meanwhile, it also found that the number of new private homes built in Scotland has more than halved since 2007/08 when the economic crisis took hold.

Supply

The Government has set out its vision to provide an “affordable home” for all by 2020. In 2011, it set a target of 6,000 new affordable homes a year, 4,000 of which were to be social homes.

However Audit Scotland said that the supply of housing was not keeping up with levels of need, and the Government needs to clarify how it will work with councils and others in the housing sector to make sure its targets are met.

The report has called for social housing and affordable housing to be properly defined in terms of tenure and rent levels to provide clarity for the sector.

It has also recommended that the Government improves the detail and reliability of national information on housing, including an assessment of the needs of current and future populations, including the need for council, RSL and affordable homes.

Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “Housing is a significant national asset and the sector in Scotland is under increasing pressure. Budgets are tightening, while demand is increasing and fewer houses are being built.

Investment

“Housing needs long-term planning and investment, but planning and funding arrangements have changed frequently. Funding is hard to track which makes it difficult to know if money is being well spent and whether initiatives are successful.

“The Scottish Government has an ambitious vision for housing. It needs to work with councils and their other partners to make sure that clear, long-term plans are in place to address challenges and to help them tackle important issues like homelessness and the quality of housing.”

The report was prepared for Audit Scotland by the Accounts Commission.

John Baillie, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “Good housing is important for individuals and families but also for wider society. It can support economic growth, promote strong, resilient communities and improve health.

“Links between housing and other policy areas at both national and local level should be stronger, to help improve the impact that good housing can make to our communities.”