Building more new homes must be a priority for Scotland - David Alexander

Over the years there have been many suggested solutions to Scotland’s housing difficulties – too many landlords and property investors; too many second-home owners; holiday lets driving out locals; empty homes that could be used.

The one solution that is almost never suggested is building more homes. Behind all the accusations, the misguided assumptions, and the frankly, ridiculous conclusions the fact remains that demand goes up when there are too few homes and goes down when there are too many. Getting a balance of supply and demand would make everyone happy and yet it seems to be something which successive governments across the UK have failed to address.

If you build more homes where people want to live, then there is no housing problem. If the stock of private and social housing both increase to match the changing population needs both in terms of numbers and their geographic location, then everyone is happy.

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This is easier said than done admittedly but is something that needs to be addressed if we are not to face a growing housing crisis in the years to come.

Builders and developers must be encouraged to increase the production of new homes

A commitment from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, was given at the weekend who said the current Government will build 300,000 new homes every year by the mid-2020s. This sounds impressive but before we all get too dewy eyed and sentimental this is not the first time this commitment has been made and not subsequently fulfilled. Successive Conservative governments over the last decade have said something similar and not achieved these targets. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said. There is a severe shortage of suitable homes across the UK, and something needs to be done immediately.

In Scotland the shocking fact is that over the last decade we have had the lowest number of new builds completed of any decade since the Second World War. New build completions fell 25.3 per cent from 220,034 in the period from 2002-2011 to 175,635 between 2012 and 2021. The latest figures show that private housebuilding was down 25.8 per cent from 175,166 to 130,015 while social housing rose 1.7 per cent from 44,868 to 45,620 over the last ten years.

This low building rate has been happening for decades and demand has been exacerbated by changing living patterns. Many more people live in single households, or couples, with much smaller family units while people are also living longer in their homes rather than transferring into care resulting in a much smaller number of homes coming to market each year.

The inevitable consequence of this combination of low building numbers, changing societal pressures, and greater longevity is that we have growing demands for housing with an insufficient supply. This has resulted in booming property prices, shortages in the private and social rented sectors, and growing frustration that people cannot find or afford the home or area they wish to live in.

If Scotland were to replicate the commitment by Westminster this would equate to around 29,100 new builds completed per year within the next three years. While this would undoubtedly be challenging it is essential that we resolve Scotland’s housing problems through a substantial growth in house building.

Builders and developers must be encouraged to increase the production of new homes across Scotland to ensure that demand will start to be met by the end of this decade. The current level of social housing being completed is substantially below the level of demand, so this also needs to be increased.

Building new homes has never been more essential if we are to create a Scotland that can grow and thrive in the coming decades, and we are at a tipping point where to continue on our previous trajectory is no longer an option and serious change must be introduced immediately.

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David Alexander is CEO of DJ Alexander Scotland Ltd

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