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In Scotland we are at the lowest level of housebuilding in over 60 years. In 2012, across all sectors, 14,877 homes were built. We need to look all the way back to 1947 to find a lower number of homes built. Combined with a loss of around half a million homes since the introduction of the Right to Buy policy in 1979, Scotland’s housing stock is not in good shape at all.

Last week the Scottish Government released the latest quarter’s data for the number of new homes built in Scotland. These most recent figures show a 29% drop in the number of social sector houses built, down to 4,209. Yes, this figure meets the Scottish Government target of 4,000 per year (20,000 over the 5 year life of the parliament), but there two major concerns with these figures.

Firstly, although the number of homes completed currently hits their target, the figures for the number of starts and approvals, i.e. the numbers of homes in the pipeline are falling, and below where they ideally should be. Social sector starts were down to 2,781 in 2012-13, a fall of 18% and approvals for affordable housing were down to 4,990 in 2012-13, a fall of 24% on the previous year. Fewer new builds started now will inevitably lead to fewer homes completed in the future.

Secondly, the Scottish Government targets are just not high enough in the first place. Shelter Scotland has long campaigned that we should be building 10,000 social rented homes a year, based on research carried out by Professor Bramley. The current Scottish Government commitment however, is to build 30,000 affordable homes over a period of 5 years, including the 20,000 social rented sector ones. The targets (and more importantly outputs) need to increase by 150% to build enough homes.

This comes against a backdrop of increasing pressures on existing social rented stock. There are currently over 157,000 households on council house waiting lists alone, a growing population, people living longer and an increasing number of smaller households.  Estimates suggest there will be an increase of just over 21,000 households per year in Scotland in the period running up to 2035. We really need to focus on building homes fit for Scottish communities and allocating a suitable affordable housing budget to do this.

We are not alone in our concerns. Homes for Scotland Chief Executive, Philip Hogg, has called for further intervention from the Scottish Government to increase the number of homes built and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations found the latest fall in the figures for the number of housing association properties started and completed as extremely worrying.

Yes, we aware of the pressures of the recession on the building industry and tightened budgets, but there is an undeniable demand for more affordable homes in Scotland. Everyone in Scotland has a right to a safe, secure home. We need to keep the pressure on to ensure that Scottish Government are accurately assessing the level of need for homes in Scotland and, most importantly, these needs are met.

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