Scottish Government publishes quarterly housing statistics

Scottish Government publishes quarterly housing statistics

A total of 1,057 affordable housing supply homes completed in the latest quarter, July to September 2020, an increase of 860 homes on the 197 completions in the previous quarter, April to June 2020.

According to the latest statistics released by Scotland’s chief statistician, there were about half the number (51%) of affordable homes completed in the latest quarter compared with the same period last year, when there were 2,087 completions recorded.

The figures reflect the re-starting of housing supply activity after coronavirus restrictions on construction and housing market activity were eased from late June onwards.

The levels achieved in the latest quarter may have been affected by the phased re-start of construction supply activity since late June and the COVID-19 construction guidance.

The numbers of affordable homes approved and started have also been affected in recent quarters by the COVID-19 restrictions.

However, between the quarter April to June and the quarter July to September the volume of homes started rose by 1,208 to 2,009 homes, a higher volume increase than homes either approved or completed in the same period.

Separate annual statistics show that as of September 2020, the number of long-term empty properties has increased by 16% (6,370 properties) from 40,963 last year to 47,333 in 2020.

This is likely to be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which directly affected the rental and sales markets, with the restrictions on movement also having a range of other impacts.

The number of second homes in 2020 (24,466) is at a broadly similar level to 2019 (24,314 homes), having increased by only 1% (152 dwellings). This brings the total of long-term empty properties and second homes up by 10% to 71,999 in September 2020.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “There is no doubt that coronavirus (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.

“However, these figures do show an improvement on the previous quarter, demonstrating that the sector has begun to recover. We remain committed to delivering the affordable homes that Scotland needs – we are continuing to work with the housing sector 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. Ahead of the Scottish Budget in January, we recently announced an increased interim funding commitment of £500 million for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme in 2021-22.

“This will help provide funding certainty for local authorities, housing associations and the construction sector as they look to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Shaheena Din, national project manager for Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), commented: “We were anticipating some increase in the number of long-term empty homes, but a 16% rise is very significant. The figures published today show that lockdown and the pandemic have lead to more homes becoming empty and more homes remaining empty.

“More worryingly, the full impact of COVID-19 on the number of long term empty homes is still emerging, and the figures may continue to rise for some time.

“We would urge every council that does not currently have a dedicated empty homes service to invest in tackling the problem of homes becoming and remaining long term empty as a result of the pandemic.”

Stacey Dingwall, senior policy manager, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), added: “The current Affordable Housing Supply Programme looked likely to meet its target of delivering 50,000 homes before the coronavirus pandemic forced construction to be paused. The latest statistics show some welcome signs of recovery and, once again, that Scotland is building much-needed affordable homes. 

“The Scottish Government has made real progress towards tackling housing need in Scotland, and it is vital that this is maintained after the current parliament ends. Scotland needs 53,000 affordable homes, including 37,100 social homes, to be delivered between 2021–26 in order to tackle existing and newly arising need. Not only will this deliver much-needed homes, it will also drive economic growth, tackle poverty, create jobs and reinvigorate communities – and this social and economic stimulus will be required more than ever as we look to Scotland’s post-pandemic recovery. 

“We welcome the government’s recently announced increase of £200 million funding for the first year of the next Affordable Housing Supply Programme, as well as its draft intentions for an overall programme of £2.8 billion, and we look forward to hearing the full details of its proposed support for the next parliament in its January budget. 

“It is critical that our sector is supported to build the homes the country needs, and to the required energy and building standards, while being able to maintain affordable rents for tenants. Our joint research with CIH Scotland and Shelter Scotland found that this will require at least £3.4 billion.”

She continued: “We know that due to important climate and energy-related targets, and rising contractor costs, the cost of building an affordable home is only increasing. It is vital that a review of the current subsidy rate is undertaken as soon as possible in order to ensure we are able to deliver the number of homes needed. 

“SFHA will continue to work with the Scottish Government to help our members to deliver much-needed affordable and social homes for the duration of this programme as well as the next. We are keen to realise our shared ambition of ensuring that everyone in Scotland has a safe, warm, energy efficient, affordable home.” 

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