Can the number of homes built in Scotland keep pace with demand?

More houses are being built in Scotland but the level of demand remains high. Picture: PA
More houses are being built in Scotland but the level of demand remains high. Picture: PA
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The total number of homes built in Scotland is rising year-on-year but concerns remain that the current rate will not be enough to meet future demand.

Housing completions in 2017 rose 4.8 per cent to 17,739, but that figure equated to just 806 extra new homes on the previous year.

Scotland’s population is growing - albeit at a much slower rate than in England - and the demand for housing is further stretched by the increasing number of Scots who choose to live alone.

The latest official statistics also revealed that affordable housing - a broad definition which includes social rented accommodation, mid-market rental properties, and shared ownership - has seen a 14 per cent increase in projects approved or started, and a 16 per cent rise in completions in the year up to March 2018.

Those rises were welcomed by Shetler Scotland director Graeme Brown. “They show good progress towards the Scottish Government’s 50,000 new affordable homes target during the lifetime of this parliament, but the slight decline in approvals in homes for social rent shows that there is no room for complacency,” he said.

“Homes for social rent are key to tackling Scotland’s housing crisis. Last year there were 137,100 households on council waiting lists.

“We urge the Scottish Government, housing associations and councils to do all they can to ensure enough social homes of the right type, in the right places, are built to meet the high demand.”

Communities secretary Angela Constance said the figures proved the Scottish Government was “driving forward its commitment to providing homes that are high-quality, efficient and affordable for communities across Scotland”.

She continued: “Since 2007 we have delivered more than 76,500 affordable homes and are on track to reach our target of at least 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this parliament.

“This target is backed by £3 billion investment – the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution.

“During 2018 to 19 we are providing more than £756 million for affordable housing, a 28 per cent increase on last year, and we will continue to work hard with councils, housing associations and others to ensure these homes benefit communities across Scotland, delivering the right homes, in the right places.”

When it comes to homes built by the private sector, the picture was more mixed.

Between October and December 2017, 3,352 private sector-led homes were completed - 10 per cent fewer than the same quarter in 2016. The total for the year to end December 2017 was 13,750, an increase of five per cent on the previous year.

Nicola Barclay is chief executive of Homes for Scotland, the body that represents the interests of the country’s biggest housebuilding firms. She said an undersupply of housing would continue “to stymie the options of all generations”.

“It’s good news that the figures for both new housing starts and completions are positive but a modest 806 extra homes demonstrates the scale of challenge facing us at a time when we need to rapidly increase supply,” she added.

“Our members, who deliver homes of all tenures, tell us that difficulties with the regulatory consents process means they simply can’t get diggers on site quickly enough to satisfy the need and demand that exists.”

Historic trends show that new build homes peaked north of the Border in the early 1950s and late 1960s, primarily as a result from programmes to replace bomb-damaged properties followed by major slum clearance projects in the biggest towns and cities.