Coronavirus lockdown makes 50,000 affordable homes target ‘unlikely’

Lockdown measures implemented as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will delay the Scottish Government’s target of building 50,000 new affordable homes, housing minister Kevin Stewart has confirmed.

Coronavirus lockdown makes 50,000 affordable homes target ‘unlikely’

Kevin Stewart MSP

The delivery of 50,000 affordable homes by the end of the current parliament was a key government objective. The Scottish Government has said 35,000 of the new homes will be made available for social rent.

However, construction projects that do not directly help to combat COVID-19 have been halted to prevent the spread of the virus.

In response to a question from SNP MSP James Dornan, Mr Stewart confirmed: “It is unlikely we will now meet the target by the end of March 2021.

“This is, of course, disappointing as we were on track to deliver on our 50,000 affordable homes commitment but our priority now, of course, is the health and well-being of the Scottish people and keeping people safe.”

He added: “With the impact of the effective lockdown there is clearly going to be a necessary pause in the delivery of affordable homes at what is a critical time in the target period when the final site starts were scheduled to proceed.

“Once normal activity has resumed we will be clearer about the full effect this will have on the timing of the delivery of these homes.”

New analysis published last week by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) concluded that the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes by March 2021 remained a real challenge for the Scottish Government and the housing sector, even before the coronavirus crisis.

The UK Housing Review 2020, which was conducted before the government lockdown in response, shows that completions over the first three years of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme have seen half of the target achieved and means that the remaining half must be delivered in the final two years.

This is despite higher rates of performance in delivering new affordable homes in Scotland than in the rest of the UK and almost twice the rate per head of population as England.

In addition, the target for 35,000 social rented homes is equally challenging with only 16,500 social homes built in the first three years. This means that 18,500 units have to be built in the remaining two years.

The Scottish Conservatives also claimed the Scottish Government would have missed the deadline regardless of the outbreak.

Tory housing spokesman Graham Simpson said: “This is understandably frustrating, particularly for those waiting for a home.

“The fight against COVID-19 is affecting every part of Scottish life and it is right that we put people first and do everything possible to stop the spread of this virus.

“However, the SNP was already on course to miss the affordable homes target by some margin.

“Missing these important targets is extremely disappointing and will obviously hit the most vulnerable hardest.”

Sally Thomas, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said: “Before the coronavirus outbreak, it looked likely that the Scottish Government would meet its target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by 2021. However, development has been paused by the government – and SFHA supports this as people’s health and safety must come first.

“Our members have worked hard to help the Scottish Government to meet its affordable homes target, and they will do so again once it is safe to re-start construction.

“We are currently working with Shelter Scotland and CIH Scotland on research into affordable housing need post-2021. After the coronavirus crisis ends, the need for affordable housing is likely to be greater than ever – both for Scotland’s people and its economy. Not only does affordable housing help to support some of the country’s most vulnerable people, but building homes boosts the economy by creating jobs – both of these benefits will be much needed.”

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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