Scottish Government criticised over decrease in social housing stats

In light of new statistics, a Scottish charity and a housing federation say the Scottish Government has the wrong priorities on social housing.

Scottish Government slammed over decrease in social housing stats PA Media

A charity has accused the Scottish Government of deliberately neglecting social housing after the number of local authority new builds completed dropped by 23% in a year.

Shelter Scotland, a charity that campaigns for fairer housing rights, said the Scottish Government has its housing priorities “badly wrong”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said the lack of social housing in Scotland should come as a “wake-up call” to the Scottish Government.

The comments follow the newly revealed quarterly housing statistics for Scotland.

The figures, revealed on Tuesday, showed there were 23,346 all-sector new build homes completed in Scotland in the year to end June 2023.

This is an increase of 7% when compared with the previous year, and the highest annual figure to the end June since 2008.

There was a 9% increase in private-led new build completions, and housing association new builds increased by 18%.

However, local authority new build completions dropped by 23% (589 homes), and the number of new builds being started decreased by 12% across all sectors – the lowest annual figure since 2016.

Private-led new build starts decreased by 7%, and housing association new build starts dropped by 21%.

Additionally, local authority new build starts decreased by 32% (656 homes).

Shelter has warned that if ministers fail to speed up the delivery of more social housing, the country’s housing crisis will worsen.

The charity said the drop in new social homes will lead to fewer homes being completed in the coming years.

The charity said that between April and June 2023, 361 new social houses were signed off, a 53% drop compared to the same quarter in 2022.

The statistics showed almost 11,000 affordable homes were delivered in the year to the end of June 2023.

However, Shelter said this will do nothing for the number of people experiencing homelessness.

The charity cited recent statistics that showed more than 16,000 children became homeless in Scotland in 2022, an average of 45 a day.

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson said: “The snail’s pace of delivery demonstrates clearly that the Scottish Government has got its priorities badly wrong and is neglecting social housing.

“No minister can claim ignorance of what that means; it means more children with nowhere to call home, it means more people trapped in miserable temporary accommodation, and it means Scotland’s housing emergency continuing to devastate lives.

“There have been countless reports, working groups, and summits all telling the Scottish Government the same thing; genuine social housing is the only way to end our housing emergency.

“Other so-called ‘affordable housing’ projects won’t cut it because they will do nothing to help the thousands of people in Scotland who are homeless right now.”

She added: “Instead of giving us the social homes we need, delivery has slowed to a crawl.

“There are no excuses for that; if this trend isn’t reversed then ministers are simply accepting that more people will inevitably experience homelessness.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) were also critical of the decrease in social housing numbers.

Sally Thomas, SFHA chief executive, said: “Today’s figures show that the number of social homes that were built this quarter are at the lowest level since mid-2020, during the height of the pandemic.

“That fact must be a wake-up call to the Scottish Government.

“Last week’s Programme for Government was described by the First Minister as ‘unashamedly anti-poverty and pro-growth’.

“Yet when we know that delivering social homes is absolutely fundamental to both tackling poverty and economic growth, the rhetoric simply isn’t being met with action.

“It is now vital – more clearly than ever – that we see significant support for building Scotland’s homes now.”

Paul McLennan MSP, minister for housing, said: “I am pleased that the number of affordable homes completed in the latest year is the highest annual figure since 2000, supporting almost 11,000 households to have an affordable place to live.

“The combined challenges caused by a hard Brexit and economic mismanagement by the UK Government have triggered various issues including the rising cost of construction supplies and workforce challenges.

“The housing sector has done incredible work to deliver homes in these circumstances and we will continue working with partners to mitigate these impacts.

“We are also making £3.5 billion available in this parliamentary term, towards the delivery of more affordable and social homes.”

He added: “Despite the challenges, since 2007, Scotland has seen over 40% more affordable homes delivered per head of population than in England, and over 70% more than in Wales.

“We have already delivered 13,354 homes towards our next target of 110,000 affordable homes in Scotland by 2032.”

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.

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