Sector responds to latest housing statistics

Annual affordable housing supply programme approvals and completions
Annual affordable housing supply programme approvals and completions

A rise in housing completions and approvals for housing associations in Scotland has been largely welcomed by the sector though calls have been made for the delivery of new homes to be improved even further.

Yesterday’s housing statistics revealed that 10,276 affordable homes were approved in 2016/17 – a 29% increase on the year before. 7,000 of these were for social rent new house building.

In the same year, 9,308 affordable homes were started (an increase of 21% on 2015/16) and 7,336 were completed – up by 13%.

The Scottish Government also announced that more than £1.75 billion will be allocated to councils as part of the £3 billion that will help deliver the government’s 50,000 affordable homes target.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said the figures indicate “some progress” towards increasing the supply of much needed affordable housing.

Sarah Boyack, SFHA head of public affairs, said: “(Yesterday’s) figures indicate some progress towards increasing Scotland’s supply of much needed affordable housing. However, this must be maintained if we are to solve Scotland’s housing crisis.

“The funding of £1.75bn gives our members the certainty that they can plan ahead and contribute towards meeting the challenging target of 50,000 affordable homes.

“SFHA campaigned to increase the affordable homes target and delivering it will not only deliver much needed homes for some of Scotland’s poorest and most vulnerable people but create job and training opportunities, therefore helping to stimulate the economy.”

Also welcoming the rise in new affordable housing approvals, CIH Scotland executive director, Annie Mauger, said: “A 29% rise in the number of approvals for affordable housing over the year ending March 2017 is to be welcomed, particularly when we consider the Scottish Government’s ambitious target to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes by the end of the current Scottish Parliamentary term in 2021.

“I know that the Scottish Government is doing all it can to ensure that the supply of new affordable homes increases to meet that target. There are always challenges in building capacity to deliver when significant investment is forthcoming.

“Be it in terms of land supply, planning policy or finance and investment, we are bound to encounter obstacles on the road to delivering that commitment in what continues to be a challenging economic environment. For its part, CIH Scotland and its membership of housing professionals throughout Scotland will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government to help pinpoint those obstacles and to help overcome them.”

Shelter Scotland said the statistics highlight need for step change in affordable housing supply.

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy for Shelter Scotland, said: “The most important part of these statistics is how many affordable homes are actually getting built each year.

“While it is good news that approvals and completions of affordable homes are going up, independent research shows that we need to build 12,000 affordable homes every year of this parliament to meet backlog need and rising demand. The 7,336 affordable home completions last year is still well short of this.

“Every home short of this target is one we have to make up for in future years of this parliamentary term. It is only by delivering a real step change in affordable housing supply that we can meaningfully tackle Scotland’s housing crisis and bring hope to the more than 142,500 households currently on waiting lists for a home across Scotland.”

Housing Statistics for Scotland Quarterly UpdateIndustry body Homes for Scotland said the new housing statistics show overall housing output in Scotland continuing to flatline with only 88 more homes (1%) built in 2016 than the year before. Figures also indicate that things won’t be improving any time soon with a fall in the number of homes (279 / two per cent) being started in the same period.

Chief executive Nicola Barclay said: “Whilst the Scottish Government highlights a 29 per cent increase in funding approvals for ‘affordable housing’, allocating grant is very different to actually building homes.

“More concerning for the population of Scotland is the big picture in relation to total figures across all tenures for which completions are still over 36 per cent down on 2007 levels and still less than what was built in 2010.

“The private sector is the biggest housing contributor overall yet the number of homes being started on site was down eight per cent in 2016, equivalent to over 1000 homes.

“With Scottish economic growth predicted to be half that of the UK in 2017, building the homes our country needs could help fill the void that will be left by large, soon to be completed infrastructure projects such as the Queensferry Crossing.

“And the rewards on offer are much more wide-ranging than simply fiscal.  In addition to skills and jobs, new homes can contribute to improved health and education outcomes for residents. With high levels of insulation, they also help address fuel poverty and climate change.

“To reap such benefits, however, we need a supportive policy framework, particularly in relation to the planning and regulatory system, which should encourage housing investment and development.”

The Scottish division of partnership housing developer Lovell welcomed a rise in the total number of new homes completed during 2016 to almost 16,500 and anticipated a further significant increase this year.

Regional managing director for Lovell in Scotland, Stephen Profili, said: “Last year, Lovell built 277 open market and affordable homes in Scotland but we expect that number to rise significantly during 2017 to around 450 units, almost 90% of which will be affordable housing.

“Given the Scottish Government’s target to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021, all housebuilders will be expected to put their shoulders to the wheel to drive up the rate of housebuilding across all tenures. Lovell is working actively with a range of partners to deliver many more new affordable homes this year and we are fully committed to playing our part in ensuring that continuing strong demand for new housing in Scotland can be met.”

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