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Housing Emergency is result of decades of low investment by politicians

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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    They are simply stating what we have all known for years !! 🫣 So sad it has come to this.

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    I see that we are not allowed to comment on Generation Rent and their attack on people using Spare Room. Will we be allowed to comment when they do the same to landlords?


    Let's comment here instead! As Spare Room is a site for flat sharers, this is a condemnation of individuals, not LLs! GenRent -who have blocked me on Twitter for countermanding their posts - don't make that clear at all do they?

    Richard LeFrak

    I find it amazing that all the people from generation rant have rather nice names.... All when you look at other profiles they are from good stock. It appears to be missing a few Dave's and Tony's...

    As Tricia pointed out, do not argue with them or they will feel all offended that the great unwashed workers of society are answering them back. And why are they bringing spare room into the debate when that is surely a short term agreement anyway.


    How many people did they survey? Are they reporting it accurately or making some figures up? Can they prove any of it? Does it really matter? People are people. They will behave in the best way that suits them usually within reason. It seems like a total non-news story to me.


    As Tricia says this isn't landlords this is''flat shares'' choosing who they wish to live with something very different


    Peter, the Evening Standard has a lovely lady called Prudence Ivy. She's always complaining about renters rights too!


    Shortage of supply caused by RRB and other anti-landlord measures making landlords sell up will make it easier for anyone who controls access to housing to discriminate, if they wish to. With loads of tenants to choose from, an agent or LLD can decided not to let to an individual for anything: even their eyebrows meeting in the middle. Let alone if their English isn't good, they look 'foreign' and may not be legally eligible to rent, etc. etc.
    (And as others have pointed out, in future tenants with rich parents who can be guarantors will be most likely to get the rental. More often I guess these will be white.)

    I pointed this -potential for discrimination- out to the House of Commons "investigation" into the then proposed RR Bill. Didn't hear anything back to all the points I raised; and wasn't going to watch hearings on 'watching paint dry' TV. Nothing in their final report that MLUHC responded to (which I did read).

    In the article (that we cannot comment on) Gen Rant said the RRB will help minority tenants. But in their simplistic way, they miss the point that minority/disadvantaged prospective tenants might not be able to become actual tenants in the first place.

    As the old saying goes: 'be careful what you wish for'.
    Unintended consequences: but they have no excuse if they go ahead when we've pointed them out.

  • Ian Deaugustine

    I agree with this article; sadly, it also applies to Wales and England. Stop blaming the private Landlord, ask the government(s) to use less of the budget for war and to use it for NHS (they promised with Brexit things would have gone better for NHS, by the way...) and especially urgently put money into social housing.

  • Richard LeFrak

    The housing emergency has been caused by a few things, first of all across the country the incentives to provide homes has been removed by red tape and taxing non existent profits. Second no plan to replace the obvious exodus caused by the first point.

    Three Shelter pressured Edinburgh council into announcing this and again points one and two come into play.

    Four, with all of the above what did they expect......

  • Nic  Kaz

    Social housing could be neglected by politicians because the PRS market grew hugely and took up the slack. But PRS is not social housing and can’t be subject to the same rules of low rent and sitting tenants - demanding such means PRS is now shrinking, selling up or changing to holiday let’s. So now the PRS tide is going out and lack of social housing is exposed….

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    I'm in Scotland and they can do what they like... Nothing will make me want to stay in the PRS now... I've crossed that border and I'm getting out ASAP.

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    Generation rent, increased licensing, stamp duty, mortgage rates, CGT, red tape and regulation, none of this make a single jot to the housing crises.

    All the time the country’s NET immigration figure is over 600k per year! Plus goodness knows how many who have come here who we dont know about, nothing will really matter.

    We can’t build as quick as people arrive so the disparity only widens.

    It really matters very little what percent of housing is social, privately rented or owned, it’s the same amount of housing but with an ever increasing population.

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    All mainstream politicians believe in open borders and don't give a damm about the indigenous population.


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