Housing statistics quarterly update: December 2020

Trends in approvals, starts and completions in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, as well as annual statistics in Long Term Empty Properties and Second Homes

1. Main Points

  • There were 1,057 affordable housing supply completions in the latest quarter July to September 2020, an increase of 860 homes on the 197 completions in the previous quarter April to June 2020. This increase reflects the re-starting of housing supply activity following the easing of construction and housing market activity COVID-19 restrictions from late June 2020 onwards.
  • The 1,057 affordable homes completed in July to September 2020 is around half the level (51%) of the 2,087 completions recorded in the same quarter in the previous year 2019, although the levels achieved in the latest quarter may have been affected by the phased re-start of construction supply activity, as well as compliance with COVID-19 construction guidance.
  • The number of approvals and starts recorded has also been impacted on in recent quarters by COVID-19 restrictions. Although in the latest quarter the volume of starts has risen higher than either approvals or completions (an increase of 1,208 starts), to reach 2,009 homes started in July to September 2020. Whilst this is below the number of starts seen in the same quarter in 2019 (2,650 homes), it is similar to the levels seen in the comparable quarters in each of the earlier years 2016 to 2018.
  • The latest annual figures on affordable housing supply also show the impact of COVID-19 on activity levels, with a total of 11,110 approvals, 10,070 starts and 7,198 completions recorded in the year to September 2020. These are decreases on the previous year of 3% (291 homes), 9% (936 homes), and 21% (1,959 homes), respectively.
  • Separate statistics on long-term empty properties and second homes show that as at September 2020, the number of long-term empty properties has increased by 16% (6,370 properties) from 40,963 in 2019 to 47,333 in 2020. Increases in the numbers of empty properties are likely to be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has directly affected both the property rental and sales markets, with the movement restrictions in place also having a range of other impacts.
  • The number of second homes in the latest year (24,466) is at a broadly similar level to the previous year 2019 (24,314 homes), having increased slightly by only 1% (152 dwellings).
  • In the absence of the latest quarterly new housebuilding figures, which have been delayed due to data provision issues, an alternative measure of private-led new housebuilding activity has been included in the publication, based on published UK HPI data on new build sales transactions.
  • This shows that there were 674 new build sales transactions in Scotland in the quarter April to June 2020, down 80% on the 3,293 transactions in the equivalent quarter in the previous year 2019, with most local authorities across Scotland seeing this level of decrease. This drop is likely to be due to the impact over this period from the COVID lockdown restrictions on construction and the housing market that were in place until late June.


Email: housingstatistics@gov.scot

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