As the summer draws to a close and business resumes across Scotland’s town halls and at Holyrood, now is a good time to cast our eye over one of the biggest local government stories of recent months.
A few weeks ago, a Scottish Government press release landed in our inboxes, optimistically saying that house-building across all sectors remains higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK.
Reading on, you discovered figures showing that in 2012/13 the number of new-build completions across all sectors fell from 15,940 to 13,803.
The rate per 100,000 population for total completions in Scotland is 259.8 for the year to the end of March. However, bravely attempting to put a shine on these otherwise dismal figures, the release stated that despite all this, the Scottish rate remained higher than that for the rest of the UK last year.
Housing Minister Margaret Burgess lamented the continuing challenge of the economic conditions, which she said were “due to world economic conditions exacerbated by Westminster’s drastic cuts to our capital budget”. She went on to say the Scottish Government remains committed to stimulating growth and delivering more affordable homes for people across Scotland.
“We have committed to deliver 30,000 affordable homes during this Parliament, at least 20,000 of those will be for social rent and we have put in place the funding –almost £950 million in the current three years – to make that happen,” she added.
This is all very well but just a month earlier, Audit Scotland released their ‘Housing in Scotland’ report which painted a grim picture. It said Scotland’s housing supply is failing to keep up with levels of need and added that there are “significant” challenges ahead. With a growth in population, the organisation estimates it could be 20 years before enough new homes are built to meet the projected increase in households.
Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government has an ambitious vision for housing. It needs to work with councils and their other partners to make sure that clear, long-term plans are in place to address challenges and to help them tackle important issues like homelessness and the quality of housing.”
So what now? The picture of housing in Scotland looks bleak and it’s going to take more than promises from the Housing Minister to turn things around. These two reports are a warning all is not well and time is not on our side. Whether the Government acts on the information is yet to be seen.