Housebuilding in Scotland plummets, official figures reveal

Parts of the industry are at their lowest level of construction since 1988.

Housebuilding in Scotland is plummeting, newly-released figures show, as the number of housing association new build starts dropped to its lowest level since 1988.

Statistics released by the Scottish Government show that overall there were 20,992 new homes built across all sectors in 2023, a fall of 11% since the year before.

There was an even bigger fall for the number of newly built homes being started last year.

Some 16,017 houses started construction, a decrease of 24% and 5,009 fewer than 2022.

Both the number of new homes being started and the amount being completed are falling in Scotland.Andrew Merry via Getty Images

The figures come after the Scottish Government slashed the affordable housing budget by nearly £200m during the December Budget.

Statistics show 2,073 housing association new build starts in 2023, the lowest level since 1988.

The Scottish Government said it was “important to remember that before April 2018, approvals are used in the place of housing association starts as a better-quality indicator”.

They added: “Local authority starts (1,192 homes) in 2023 were at the lowest number since 2013”.

At 12,752 homes, private sector starts were at the lowest level since 2020, when pandemic restrictions led to a sharp decline in construction activity.

For affordable homes, there were 6,239 approvals (a decrease of 5%), 6,046 starts (down 20%) and 9,680 completions (a decrease of 5%) during 2023.

However, 2022 was a record high for affordable home completions.

The Scottish Government has a target to deliver to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.

Figures released last year showed renters faced an average increase in Scotland of 14% in since 2022, with some areas as high as 22%.

The latest provisional figures from the UK House Pricing Index show the price of a home in Scotland rose by 4.8% from January 2023 to January 2024 to reach an average of £190,000.

Alison Watson, Shelter’s Scotland director, said the country was seeing the “consequences of a tightening housing budget”.

She said: “By every measure, social housing delivery is slowing down drastically.

“Approvals and starts on social homes have been declining for years, and that trend continues in these figures. Given that, the drastic fall in completions was inevitable. 

“These figures don’t even reflect the effects of the latest 26% cut to the housing budget which prompted widespread dismay across the housing sector.”

She added: “That’s a daunting prospect in the middle of a housing emergency and it’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to rapidly deliver an emergency action plan, which acknowledges the urgency of the situation and sets out an effective strategy to address it.” 

Last week, Fife joined Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh and Glasgow in declaring a housing emergency.

Housing minister Paul McLennan said Scotland was building more homes per head of population than the rest of the UK.STV News

Housing minister Paul McLennan said inflation, supply chain issues and labour shortages linked to Brexit led to a “challenging environment” for housebuilding.

He said: “Scotland has delivered more than 128,000 affordable homes since April 2007, over 70% of which were for social rent, in turn helping to create strong, sustainable communities.

“In the year 2022-2023, Scotland delivered by far the most affordable homes per head of the population of any country in the UK – 69% higher than the rate in England – building on our track record of doing more than any other part of the UK to provide and keep social homes.

“There’s no doubt that inflation, supply chain issues and labour shortages linked to Brexit have created a challenging environment, which is reflected in today’s statistics.

“Despite UK Government cuts to the capital budget, the Scottish Government also continues to invest heavily to support housing supply.”

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