Builders voice concerns over private housing stats

Nicola Barclay

BUILDERS have expressed concern over new Scottish Government figures which show the total number of new homes being started has fallen by 5% to 16,870 over the last year.

These has been exacerbated by a “worrying” private sector drop of 14%, down to 11,816. By comparison, social sector housing starts increased by 24% to 5,054.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, said, “Whilst it is good to see an increase in social sector funding and consequent activity, we must recognise that this equates to only a third of homes built, and we therefore need an all-tenure approach to delivery if we are to meet the wide range of housing needs and demands of people across Scotland.

“I am deeply concerned by today’s figures which confirm the views of my members that it has never been more difficult to start sites and get much needed homes out of the ground.  Obviously this continuing flat-lining of total supply is bad news in relation to the jobs and investment builders bring to our economy, but unfortunately those worst affected are the young people and growing families struggling to get on the housing ladder. 

“Not only is the lack of an adequate housing supply across all tenures stifling ambition and aspiration, it is also continuing to pressurise house prices and rents as well as threatening Scotland’s future success and social well-being.”

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland said the figures point to a “need for action”.

Gordon Nelson, director of FMB Scotland, said, “These latest figures show private sector starts and completions of new homes slowed in the third quarter of 2016. However, most worryingly, in the nine months to the end of September 2016, there were 14% fewer private sector starts than in the same period in 2015. The first nine months of 2016 showed an increase in starts across housing associations and local authorities. However, we want both local authority and housing association builds to be adding to private sector supply – social house building shouldn’t have to compensate for a lack of private house building. Scotland was the only part of the UK to see a fall in the number of new homes completed in 2015/16 compared to 2014/15. To reverse that and begin to fully meet Scotland’s housing need, we need to see all sectors building many more homes than they currently are.

“The Government needs to look at how it can address this weakness in the market. Crucial to this will be how it can enable small and medium-sized (SME) housebuilders to play a greater role in the housing market and boost their output of new homes. The Government took an important step towards doing this in its survey of Scottish SME housebuilders last year. The responses showed that there are significant barriers facing these firms, the most important of which is access to finance. Research by the FMB also shows that small housebuilders face difficulties getting planning permission for small sites and this results in limited opportunities for small scale development. Both industry and government now need to work together to find ways of addressing these challenges in order to ensure that the private sector is working.”