A “WORRYING decline” in the number of new-build homes started in Scotland, including a sharp fall in the affordable housing category, has been flagged by a veteran of the Scottish residential property sector.

David Alexander, chief executive of Scottish estate and lettings agency DJ Alexander, highlighted recently published figures showing there were 19,227 new-build starts in the year to the end of September 2022, a decrease of 12 per cent or 2,580 homes compared with the previous year.

The figure for the year to September 2022 is down by 24% on the 25,283 new-build starts figure in the pre-pandemic year to September 2019, DJ Alexander noted.

The estate and lettings agency observed the decline during the year to September 2022 was broadly based, with a drop of 11% or 1,774 starts for private-led new builds from the preceding 12 months. Housing association new builds fell 27%, equivalent to 817 home starts.

DJ Alexander flagged concern that the number of starts for affordable homes was, at 7,502 in the year to December 2022, down by 24% or 2,398 on the prior 12 months. It noted this is the lowest annual figure since 2015.

It observed “the decline was across the board for all social housing sectors, with approvals for social rent down 19% [or] 1,382 homes, other affordable rent down 33% or 446 homes, and affordable home ownership declining 46% (570 homes)”.

🔴 Save on a full year of digital access with our lowest EVER offer.

Subscribe for the whole year to The Herald for only £24 for unlimited website access or £30 for our digital pack.

This is only available for a limited time so don't miss out.

👉 Click here to subscribe

Mr Alexander said: “At a time when we need an expansion in the number of new houses in Scotland to cope with growing demand, we see the number of starts across all sectors declining and, worryingly, still [around] 25% lower than the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“There are likely to be many reasons for this including a shortage of materials, an appropriate available workforce, and rising costs, but it is imperative that we address the key issue of housing supply to ensure that the current and growing demand will be met.”

He added: “The reduction in private new builds may be answered by market forces but I do believe demand has not declined and there remains a serious need for a prolonged period of new builds to cope with the growing number of homebuyers. When you consider that during the period from 1996/97 to 2007/08 the number of new-build starts never fell below 20,000 and peaked at 28,400 in 2006/07, yet in the ensuing 14 years the number of new starts has only been greater than 20,000 in two years, it is obvious we have been building too few properties for a long time and this needs to be addressed.

“More worryingly the decline in affordable housing starts is of serious concern given the enormous number of people desperately in need of reasonably priced homes. The number of these properties being built should be rising rather than falling, and to decline by 24% in a single year is a sign that the system is not working properly.”