A controversial ‘housing emergency’ declared by a city council is the result of decades of low investment in social housing according to a leading property firm.
Edinburgh council declared the emergency last week, claiming high private rents were a contributory factor to a shortage of homes.
But DJ Alexander Ltd, the largest estate and letting agents in Scotland, says that the housing emergency could happen anywhere in Scotland because there has been a long-term lack of investment in maintaining the existing stock and growing the social housing sector.
In 1993 the social housing sector in Scotland made up 37.5 per cent of the total stock across Scotland. By 2020, the latest year for which there is data, this had dropped to 23 per cent which was a loss of 214,000 homes over the 27-year period.
By 2020 there were only 1,000 more homes in the social housing sector than in 2007 with the total figure standing at 608,000 across both council and housing association properties.
Over the same period from 1993 to 2020 the private rented sector increased from seven per cent in to 14.9 per cent in 2020 which is an increase of 241,000 homes to a total of 395,000.
This increase was required to meet the decline in the supply in the social housing sector while also meeting the demand caused by an increase of 349,000 in the population of Scotland.
David Alexander, chief executive of DJ Alexander Ltd, explains: “The declaration of a housing emergency by the City of Edinburgh council was both shocking and alarming for many people in Scotland. It has been known for some time that serious issues have been building in the housing sector but that 5,000 people in Edinburgh are now being supported in temporary accommodation is worrying.
“This problem has been growing for years and is the result of decades of insufficient investment in the social housing sector. That there has been a reduction of 214,000 homes over the last 27 years at the same time as the population has increased by a third of a million indicates just how much the gap between supply and demand has grown.
“The situation was obviously exacerbated by the loss of social housing property due to the right to buy legislation but there has also been insufficient supply to cope with the growing population and changing social circumstances with increasing numbers of people living alone or as a couple.”
The latest data for new dwelling starts in social housing indicate that the current problems will continue.
The latest four quarters to Q2 2023 show just 3,665 new dwellings started which is 25 per cent lower than the previous four quarters and over 40 per cent lower than two years before. In Edinburgh there have been only 299 new build dwelling starts in the year to June 2023.
Alexander continues: “What is required is an industry wide approach which is all encompassing and seeks to find solutions to grow the volume of private and social housebuilding over the next decade. Equally there needs to be agreement to ensure that the private rented sector and its social housing counterpart are encouraged equally so that there is a sufficient and varied offer in the mix to meet current and future demand.
“The Scottish Housing Minister Scottish Housing Paul McLennan said in an interview on the Sunday Show this week that “I think that the private rented sector is an important part of the housing mix” and “we have to make sure the private rented sector continues to thrive”.
“If this view is genuine and is followed through, then this could be an important change of position for the Scottish government and hopefully signals the beginning of a more cooperative discussion between all interested parties.”
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