Politicians need to act faster to end housing slump

Figures released by the Scottish Government earlier this week show Scotland mired in the depths of a prolonged housing crisis.

The new service will aim to settle disputes between landlords and tenants. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Completions across all sectors in the last quarter have fallen by 25 per cent on the same period a year ago and starts have slumped to their lowest figure on record.

Output has nearly halved from pre-credit crunch levels of near 26,000 new homes built in 2007-08.  With fewer than 14,000 new homes built in 2012-13 – when the Scottish population is at a record high and households are projected to grow by more than 21,000 a year over the next two decades – this is particularly worrying.

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According to official estimates, 465,000 new homes across all tenures are needed in Scotland by 2035 to meet demand.  However, the build rate announced this week points to a potential shortfall of around 160,000 by this time.  This is equal to the number of people already on housing waiting lists.

Picture: Rob McDougall

Impacting such a wide range of policy areas, the long-term social and economic consequences of not arresting the major decline in home-building in Scotland will be severe and far-reaching.

Whilst the property market in England may appear to have turned a corner as a result of initiatives such as the new Help to Buy shared equity scheme, which has already generated 10,000 sales in just a few months, this is clearly not the case north of the Border, where much still needs to be done.

In particular, we need to see the Scottish Government’s promised £120m shared equity scheme launched as soon as possible so that those both wishing to buy or build new homes in Scotland are not disadvantaged in comparison to their counterparts in England.

It is also essential that proposals to increase regulation and cost on the delivery of new homes be reconsidered as this could otherwise prove to be a huge own goal, further depressing housing supply.

Our leaders to demonstrate vision and commitment to ensure we have enough homes – across all sectors – to house our growing population.

If this is not forthcoming, the cautious optimism which was apparent in the first half of the year could easily disappear with investment channelled elsewhere.

• Philip Hogg is chief executive of Homes for Scotland