Minister pledges safe delivery of affordable homes as COVID hits 50,000 target



The annual number of affordable homes approved and started have increased over the past year despite coronavirus having a major impact over the lockdown period.

Kevin Stewart MSP

Figures from the latest Quarterly Housing Statistics show that, in the year to end June 2020, 12,276 affordable homes were approved, an increase of 1,436 homes (13%) on the previous year. Over the same period, 10,701 homes were started, an increase of 186 homes (2%) on 2019.

The statistics also include figures on all-sector new housebuilding, with a total of 22,386 homes built in 2019, an increase of 11% on the previous year, and the highest number of homes built since 2007.

Private-led completions increased by 1,380 homes (9%), local authority completions increased by 375 homes (31%) and housing association completions increased by 536 homes (14%). The total number of homes completed across both housing associations and local authorities increased by 911 homes (18%).

The number of new build homes started increased to 23,672, a rise of 1,639 new homes (7%) on the previous year and the highest number of starts since 2008. There was a 10% increase in private sector new build home starts from the previous year, with 16,661 started. Local authority starts increased by 445, a 28% increase, while approvals for housing associations decreased by 384, a fall of 7%. The total number of homes started across both housing associations and local authorities increased by 61 homes (1%).

Lockdown measures led to a decrease in the number of affordable homes completed in the most recent quarter, covering a period in which all non-essential construction and house purchase activity in Scotland was paused due to lockdown measures, with restrictions only being lifted towards the end of June. 

In the latest quarter to June 2020, a total of 197 affordable homes were delivered, a decrease of 84%, or 1,058 homes, when compared to the equivalent quarter in the previous year. This brings the total for the year to end June 2020 to 8,228 homes, down 11% (1,055 homes) on the previous year, but an increase of 17% compared with 2016. 

A total of 873 homes were approved and 791 homes were started in the latest quarterly period to end June 2020, levels which are 41% and 63% below equivalent quarterly levels in the previous year.

Despite these drops in the latest quarter, the numbers of homes approved and started have both increased on an annual basis. A total of 12,276 affordable homes were approved in the year to end June 2020, an increase of 1,436 homes (13%) on the previous year, and 10,701 homes were started, an increase of 186 homes (2%).

Approvals, starts and completions of affordable housing in the latest year all remain above levels previously seen prior to the beginning of the 50,000 affordable homes target period in 2016.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the construction sector. The lockdown meant nearly a third of the year saw little to no activity able to take place and a necessary pause in the delivery of affordable homes - but we remain committed to delivering the homes that Scotland needs. Our focus now is to get on with the job, and to do it safely.

“Backed by a commitment of more than £3.5 billion, we are delivering more good quality, secure and affordable homes, which will in turn help create strong, sustainable communities.

“We were on track to deliver on our commitment to meet the 50,000 affordable homes target by the end of March 2021 but, due to the impact of the pandemic, it is now unlikely we will do so – but we will continue to work with partners across the housing sector to ensure the delivery of the remainder of these homes, as quickly as it is safe.”

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland called for an increased ambition for social housebuilding.

Director Alison Watson said: “The Scottish Government deserves credit for its commitment to building a record number of social homes over the course of this parliament. We recognise that coronavirus has slowed progress towards that target.

“But now’s the time to increase our ambition again and put social housing at the heart of Scotland’s recovery plan. An ambitious programme of social housebuilding will boost our economy, create jobs and prevent people from becoming homeless as a result of the pandemic.

“That’s why we’re asking the public to back our #BuildScotlandsFuture campaign, calling for a commitment to build 37,100 social homes over the course of the next parliament.”