Ministers have been warned more than £9bn is needed by 2032 to build the affordable homes needed to end the nation's housing and homelessness emergency and meet their own building targets.

But they are being faced with an potential £4bn black hole in its budgets over the next eight years because of huge cuts in Scottish Government spending on affordable homes amounting to more than £570m in real terms over the past three years.

The revelation comes after The Herald told how 50 Scots children are being hit by homelessness every day while the numbers languishing in halfway house temporary accommodation, because they cannot be found settled homes, has more than trebled in 20 years.

And Scotland's councils have spent what some campaigners say is an "outrageous" £720m of public money on placing the homeless in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts and hotels over the last five years because of the housing shortage. 

The Scottish Government has since fallen way behind in a key target in its 2021 Programme for Government to deliver 110,000 social and affordable homes by 2032 with 70% for social rent.

There have been 19,980 affordable homes completed, that have received some sort of public money support in the first two years till March 31 this year - meaning it is already 2,620 short of an 11,300 homes a year target.

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That has come six years after the Scottish Government launched an action plan to build affordable homes which was meant to curb homelessness, cut the use of temporary accommodation and rapidly rehouse people.

But concerns have deepened around the number of starts to affordable homes which makes the future of completions far bleaker.

In the very same two years there were just 13,655 affordable homes begun, against a target over the period of 22,600.

It is the lowest return over a two year period for nearly a decade.

With seven years and nine months of the target to go 90,020 homes remain to be completed to meet the target, at an average of over 11,600 a year.

It comes amidst a real terms cumulative cut of over £570m to the Scottish Government affordable homes budget over the past three years.

Increased costs of construction and supply chain delays are seen as some of the challenges to delivering new homes.

Meanwhile, the average cost of building each affordable homes for social rent rose by over 26% (£39,174) over two years to stand at £189,157 at the start of 2023.

That means that with the Scottish Government typically providing affordable homes funding of 55%, some £9.36bn will need to be found by the end of 2031 just to meet the target, with a further £8bn expected to come from social landlords.

That would mean an average spend of £1.2bn a year till 2032 on current prices. But the Scottish Government budget for affordable housing has been averaging nearly half that at just £685.9m over the past three years. It comes amidst growing alarm that not enough is being done after the Scottish Government finally declared a national housing emergency in May.

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Ten local authorities have now declared a symbolic housing emergency - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Argyll and Bute, Fife, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian, Scottish Borders, South Lanarkshire, Angus and Dumfries and Galloway.

The professional standards body the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland has appealed for the Scottish Government to reverse the cuts that have already been made to the affordable housing budget - but said ministers have to do far more.

Callum Chomczuk, CIH national director for Scotland  (Image: Martin Gavin) "We need a multi-year, multi-billion commitment to building the affordable homes Scotland needs," they said.

"We need the Scottish Government and all political parties to work together address the housing emergency, provide the long-term funding for building and make this THE political priority."

Homes for Scotland, the sector body with 200 member organisations alongside other key stakeholders said that the Scottish Government should at least fully reverse the cuts to the affordable housing budget by pausing spending on other capital projects if necessary.

The coalition also ministers should prioritise the building and buying of larger properties specifically for households with children trapped in temporary accommodation for more than a year where needed.

"The housing emergency has not manifested itself within the last 12 months," said Homes for Scotland chief executive Jane Wood.  "It is our view that this has been the result of successive decades of housing policy, planning and strategy in Scotland failing to deliver the homes of all tenures needed to house our population in high quality, sustainable and energy efficient homes that meet their needs and they can afford.

"The consequences of this cascade across the Scottish Government’s entire policy portfolio, negatively impacting health outcomes, educational attainment, fair work and employment, fuel poverty reduction targets and the transition to net zero. It also inhibits social justice and inclusive economic growth.

"The Scottish Government has maintained that Brexit, cost price inflation and the capital cuts to the Scottish Budget are the main drivers of the national housing emergency.

"Whilst these are, of course significant issues, they are nowhere near as pressing as the challenges posed by an underfunded and under-resourced planning system which takes over 62 weeks to process a major housing application or the overall policy and regulatory environment which currently serves to hamper the delivery of new homes rather than promote them."

The affordable homes plan set out by Nicola Sturgeon in a Programme for Government in 2021 in which she said she aimed to "build on our investment in further improve the availability of good quality, affordable, energy-efficient homes".

She suggested that its funding would "support total investment of £18bn".

She said that as "well as delivering affordable homes" investment would support up to 15,000 jobs.

But there has been a cumulative £573m real terms cut to the Scottish Government affordable homes budget over the past three years.

The Scottish Government's affordable homes budget has taken a cumulative hit of more than £280m over the past three years without taking inflation into account - based against the 2021/22 allocation of £779.776m - despite a pledge by outgoing First Minister Humza Yousaf of a £80m uplift for affordable housing over the next two years.

(Image: NQ)

Housing campaigners have been staggered by a £196.08m (26%) cut to the budget in the 2024/25 alone, without taking into account inflation, with the spending plans set at £555.862m before an extra £40m was promised by Mr Yousaf.

If the budget had kept up with inflation since 2021/22 in 2024/25, the spending plans would have been at £985.32m.

When inflation has been taken into account, instead of getting £2.631bn over the three years - the affordable homes budget is at £2.058bn - a drop of £573m.

The Scottish Government's symbolic housing emergency declaration was made by social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville during a Labour-led debate at Holyrood and ministers have blamed increased inflation, Brexit and the 9% cut to the capital block grant had all substantially contributed to the current housing situation.

The SNP previously voted against a Labour motion declaring a housing emergency in November.

Housing minister Paul McLennan said: “The Scottish Government has delivered more than 128,000 affordable homes since April 2007 - over 90,000 of which were for social rent.

“We are investing almost £600 million in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme in 2024-25. To maximise the impact of this investment, we are concluding our review of this programme with inputs from stakeholders to ensure resources are being deployed to optimal effect. We are also working on the development of specific options to attract private investment through the Housing Investment Taskforce."