HOUSEBUILDING in Scotland is at its lowest point since the end of the Second World War.

Fewer homes are being built than in the depths of the Great Depression, leaving thousands of young people frozen out of the property market.

Last year fewer than 15,000 homes were built, adding to the woes of those attempting to buy reasonably priced homes.

Homelessness charity Shelter Scotland warned that while the Scottish Government had delivered on its social housing target to complete 4000 new homes during 2012-13, it was concerned about a future drop-off.

Many young people faced with problems getting mortgages and huge deposits demanded by lenders face enormous waiting lists for rented social housing. It is predicted the number of under-35s renting from private landlords will overtake those with a mortgage by 2014.

By 2020, it is estimated more than 50% of young people north of the Border will live in private rented homes.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "A sharp drop in the number of new social homes approved for construction and a drop in the number of units where construction has actually started will complicate efforts to deliver the pledge in each of the remaining years of the parliament.

"To deliver the Scottish Government's pledge, an ongoing pipeline of shovel-ready sites for social housebuilding is required.

"The 18% drop in the number of approved sites where construction has started raises further worries that the Scottish Government is not building quickly enough to maintain the capacity and skills in the workforce that rely on social house-building for employment."

The figure for 2012 of 14,877 completions was the lowest number since 1947, when 12,149 houses were finished. It was also worse than the low point reached in the Great Depression when 17,544 homes were completed in 1932. It is estimated 465,000 new homes need to be built by 2035 to meet demand.

In total, 13,541 new homes were started last year compared with 13,310 in 2011, with a 4% jump in the dominant private sector contrasting with the 18% fall in social housing, which makes up a smaller section of the market.

Annual private-sector building project start-ups to December last year reached five figures for the first time since 2008 with 10,215 homes. In the social sector the figure fell from 3391 in 2011/12 to 2781 in the last financial year.

Council-house starts alone were up 45% on the 798 in the year ending March 2012. Construction of new council houses in the local authority sector has been rising steadily in recent years after a slump which saw zero new starts in Scotland during 2003/04 and 2004/05.

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said she was encouraged by a 2% rise in new homes started last year after a 30-year slump.

She said: "Although operating conditions remain very challenging for Scotland's house-building industry, these latest statistics are a step in the right direction that help our economy, creating and supporting jobs.

"We are now two years into our five-year target of delivering 30,000 additional affordable homes and we are making good progress."

But Philip Hogg, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, said completions remained "the ultimate measure of production".

Completions in all sectors have been falling year-on-year since 2007/08, and have tumbled 40% from a peak of 26,468 in 2004/5 to 15,940 in 2011/12.

Mr Hogg said: "It is estimated 465,000 new homes are needed in Scotland by 2035 to meet demand. However, the build rates highlighted today point to a potential shortfall in the region of 140,000 by this time when there are currently already significantly more people than that on housing waiting lists.

"Clearly this would only exacerbate Scotland's housing crisis and highlights the need for further intervention by the Scottish Government."

Scottish Building Federation executive director Michael Levack added: "Such a steep fall in public-sector housebuilding activity at the beginning of this year must be a cause of concern."