A major Scottish estate agency had issued a warning over housing supply following official data showing new-build starts north of the Border are down by nearly a quarter.

DJ Alexander, a major player in the lettings market, flagged Scottish Government data showing there were 16,274 new-build starts in the year to last September, the latest period for which figures are available.

This number, it noted, is down 24.4% from 21,534 in the year to September 2022, and the lowest figure for any year to September period since 2014.

And the agency observed that, in the year to September 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, there were 19,051 starts.

Comparing the year to last September with the preceding 12 months, DJ Alexander said: “The figures show that the private sector fell by 18.8% but the biggest drop occurred in the social housing sector, which saw an annual collapse of 40.5%. Just 3,292 social sector new-build starts happened in the latest year compared with 5,535 the previous year. This is the lowest number of social sector new-build starts since the data started being collected in…1996.”

DJ Alexander chief David Alexander said: “At a time when we have housing emergencies in our two largest cities and also in Argyll and Bute, it is worrying that new-build starts should have declined so much.

“The reasons for the decline in the private sector could be to do with delays in planning, rising costs, anticipated lower demand due to the cost-of-living crisis, and the increase in mortgage costs in the last 18 months.”

He declared that “this is still concerning given that in some parts of the country demand remains extremely strong”.

Mr Alexander said: “Any reduction in future supply will…result in substantially higher prices in the coming years.

“But it is the reduction in starts in the social sector that should set alarm bells ringing. Given that these statistics relate to the time prior to the announcement of reduced funding for affordable housing in the December Scottish Budget, this is a sign that the number of properties being built was already slowing.”