Low number of homes built in Scotland '˜extremely concerning'

An Edinburgh-based housing association has been confirmed as one of Scotland's biggest builders after it was featured in a UK industry report for the first time.

The number of homes being built in Scotland remains 36.5 per cent below pre-recession levels. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
The number of homes being built in Scotland remains 36.5 per cent below pre-recession levels. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Link Group last year completed 328 new affordable homes – 202 of which were available for social rent – enough for it make the annual list compiled by trade magazine Inside Building.

Social housing remains one of the few growth sectors in the building industry north of the Border, with the number of completed homes markedly down on a decade ago.

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While latest Scottish GDP figures show the economy growing by 0.8 per cent, they also revealed a fifth consecutive quarter of contraction in construction.

The number of homes being built in Scotland remains 36.5 per cent below pre-recession levels – a situation industry leaders described today as “extremely concerning”.

Link was the highest-placed Scottish housing association, placed at number 37 in the ‘Top 50 Biggest Builders: Completions’ chart and appeared at number nine in the list of most prolific suppliers of new homes for social rent.

The annual survey tracks the development of new housing, as well as projects in the pipeline, by the UK’s biggest housing associations.

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“The inclusion of Link in these lists demonstrates our commitment to delivering a good supply of high quality affordable housing for those most in need,” said Link Group chairman Roy Stirrat.

“We continue to be very successful in securing grant and private funding for new projects and social housing development continues to be the mainstay of our development programme. We thank the Scottish Government and a wide range of Scottish local authorities, lenders, third sector organisations, community groups and customers for their continuing support for our aim of alleviating inequality.”

David Ogilvie, interim director of policy at trade body Homes for Scotland, said it “had never been harder to open new sites and get much needed homes out of the ground”.

He added: “It is particularly frustrating for us knowing that, if a more supportive policy framework to encourage housing investment was in place, home building could make even more of a contribution to boosting Scotland’s economic growth.

“For example, research shows that a return to building pre-recession levels of 25,000 homes per annum could generate an extra £1.9 billion in gross value added each year.

“Crucially, this would help to fill the economic void that will be left by large, soon-to-be-completed infrastructure projects as well as support thousands of extra jobs and training opportunities.

“It also offers significant wider social benefits such as improved health and education outcomes.”

The Scottish Government had said that the 50,000 affordable new homes would be delivered by 2021 and result in a 67 per cent increase in affordable homes in the country.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said recently that the ‘vast majority’ of the homes would be built, with opposition parties claiming this was a sign the SNP was moving away from the commitment.

He said: “We are determined to increase and accelerate housing supply and have set out a five-year commitment to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 homes for social rent, backed by more than £3bn investment.

“The vast majority of these will be new-build. As well as building new homes, we will also work to bring empty homes back into use and support local authorities and housing associations in acquiring new social housing stock.”