The Scottish Government has blamed “global issues” after the number of affordable houses being approved in Scotland has dropped significantly.

Data from the quarterly statistics on housebuilding and affordable housing supply published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician last week revealed that the number of affordable houses starting construction in the 2022/2023 financial year had fallen to 6,987, down from 8,227 in 2021/2022 and 12,039 in 2019/2020. 

Scottish Labour said the 42% drop over three years marked a “a supreme failure” by ministers. 

READ MORE: Scotland houses: Fears as new-build starts, affordable homes fall

The number of affordable housing approvals also fell starkly, from 12,880 in 2020 to 7,820 in 2022 and 6,396 last year, a 50% drop in three years.  It is the lowest annual figure since 2015.

Meanwhile, the number of all new housebuilding starts fell by 25%, from 25,586 in 2020 to 19,204 in 2023. 

While the drop is still significant, it is considerably lower than the fall in affordable housing over the same time period. 

The statistics also show that private-led new build starts increased slightly by 1% whilst housing association new build approvals dropped by 11% and local authority new build starts decreased by 5%.

There was an increase in the number of completions, with 23,512 all-sector new build homes finished in the year to end March 2023, the highest annual figure since 2008. 

The SNP-Green Scottish Government has a target to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be for social rent and 10% will be in remote, rural and island communities.

The promise was made by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon ahead of the last Holyrood election. 

At the time, she said the government would back the “major ambitious programme with £3.4 billion investment in the next parliamentary term.” 

“This target overall would support about £16 billion in total investment and up to 14,000 jobs a year,” the ex-SNP leader added, describing it as a “down-payment on Scotland’s economic recovery.”

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The Scottish Government’s Affordable Housing Supply Programme provides cash directly to housing contractors to deliver homes for social rent through local authorities and Registered Social Landlords.  

Private developers also often need to include affordable housing in order to get planning permission from councils, roughly around 25 to 35% of the number of homes agreed. 

Last week’s figures show that there has been a total of 11,570 affordable housing completions so far against the 110,000 target. 

Of those, 79% have been homes for social rent, while 13% are for other affordable rent, and the remaining 8% for affordable home ownership.

The Herald:

Scottish Labour Housing Spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “These shocking figures come at a time of crisis for many Scots and signal a supreme failure from the Scottish Government.

“When so many people are struggling to keep afloat, maintaining our affordable housing provision is even more vital than ever.

“Instead, this programme has been left dangling off a cliff edge by Shona Robison as target after target is missed.

“Scottish Labour would ensure everyone has a home they can be proud of by improving housing supply, building more homes and making better use of the housing stock we have”

READ MORE: ScotGov affordable homes targets 'at risk' after £177m budget cuts

There are a number of challenges facing the sector, with prices of materials skyrocketing and the cost of moving supplies to remote areas prohibitive.

There are also record staff shortages, with a recent report suggesting the industry needed to attract 3,910 more workers a year to meet demand. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has led the UK in the delivery of affordable housing with 122,201 affordable homes delivered since 2007, with 86,240 of these for social rent. 

“We are pleased that the number of affordable homes completed in the latest year to end March 2023 is the highest annual figure since the statistical series began in 2000. 

“Looking across the housing sector, total all-sector new housebuilding completions are also at their highest annual level to end March since 2008.

“We are aware that global issues such as rising costs of construction supplies, workforce issues, Covid-19 and the UK Government’s decision on Brexit are significantly impacting the pace of delivery of affordable housing. 

“We are working closely with partners to mitigate these issues where possible and continue to collaborate to achieve our shared goal of delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70% will be available for social rent and 10% in remote, rural and island communities.”


In this article, we initially said housing developers could "dodge" building affordable homes by "paying the local authority the equivalent value.”

This is incorrect. House builders can pay "commuted sums" to local authorities in lieu of on-site provision but only in limited circumstances, and not on the whim of developers as suggested.