Scottish housebuilders call for new first minister to make it easier to build homes

Humza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland.
Humza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland.

Scottish housebuilding bodies are calling on their new minister to engage with businesses and remove obstacles hampering the delivery of new homes.

The appeal to Humza Yousaf, who was appointed 29 March, coincides with Scottish government housing statistics reporting a 12% fall in new starts, down by 2,580 to 19,227, in the year to the end of September 2022. There was also a 27% drop in housing association approvals to build new homes.

Considering this, Homes for Scotland, which represents 200 Scottish housebuilders, has warned the government’s target to build more than 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 will be difficult to hit.

Jane Wood, chief executive of the organisation, said: “[Yousaf’s] appointment presents the perfect opportunity to review the regulatory areas and other issues creating blockers to residential development across sectors to ensure that housing in Scotland meets the needs and aspirations of everyone living here.”

Furthermore, recent planning guidance for new developments to comprise at least 25% of social housing, and the introduction of Passivhaus energy standards by the end of 2024, have caused concern.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has said that Passivhaus would result in higher building and maintenance costs and that supply chain capacity is insufficient to deliver these homes at scale.

Meanwhile, Robin Blacklock, director of Scottish Property Federation, has said: “There’s been a wider concern among the business community about the direction of policies and their relationship with businesses.”

He added: “There is a concern about meeting time scales as we’re still trying to recover performance after the Covid pandemic.”

Scotland has pledged to be netzero by 2045 – five years earlier than England with both Edinburgh and Glasgow city councils aiming to be netzero by 2030. It also hopes to take one million homes off the gas grid with alternative energy sources such as electric heat pumps by 2030.

Robin added that developers and housebuilders would be seeking to develop a positive relationship with Minister Yousaf where business is seen as a means for achieving new housing objectives.

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates also noted that development finance lenders would like to see a speedier response to planning applications as this was one of the biggest hurdles facing SME housebuilders.

Yousaf has taken an active interest in housing, particularly in tackling the shortage of homes for key workers in remote parts of the country. He has also said he would increase council tax on second homes across the Highlands, islands and north-east to limit holiday homes.

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