New House Building
In 2015-16, 15,854 new build houses were completed in Scotland, an decrease of 355 homes (2%) on the previous year when 16,209 had been completed.
During the same time period the number of new houses started increased by 664 homes (4%) from 16,246 in 2014-15 to 16,910 in 2015-16, the highest annual number of starts since 2008-09.
Looking just at the new house building element of housing supply 15,854 homes were completed in 2015-16, a decrease of 355 homes (2%) on the previous year when 16,209 had been completed. At the same time there was an increase of 664 (4%) in the number of homes on which construction started from 16,246 in 2014-15 to 16,910 in 2015-16. This is the highest number of home starts since 2008-09.
The early 1950s and late 1960s saw about 41,000 to 43,000 new houses completed each year. This was primarily due to programmes of post-war reconstruction and slum clearances which saw huge numbers of, predominantly public sector, housing being built.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the level of new build fell and fewer than 20,000 homes were completed each year throughout much of the 1980s. This was caused by a large decline in the number of social sector houses being built. Meanwhile the number of new private houses was generally on the rise and continued to increase until the economic downturn in 2008. By 2007-08 private sector new build represented around 84% of all completions compared to between 3% and 7% in the early part of the 1950s.
Chart 3: New house building in Scotland:1920 to 2015 (calendar Years)
The recession hit the private house building industry particularly hard and by 2012-13 starts and completions had fallen by 50% and 55% respectively since 2007-08. Both the numbers of homes started and the number completed have increased on an annual basis each year since 2012-13  . The number of starts stands at 12,497, up by 1% from 2014-15 and at their highest level since 2008-09. However this is still 38% below the number started in 2007-08. Private sector completions meanwhile have risen by 3% since 2014-15 to 12,396. This is the highest number of completions since 2008-09 but 43% below the level in 2007-08. In September 2013 the Scottish Government introduced the Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme which has aimed to support buyers purchasing new build homes and to stimulate the housebuilding industry.
In general, the number of starts will be a strong indicator of the likely trend in completions over the longer term, but there may well be differences over the short and medium term. These differences depend on factors such as the housing market, economic climate, access to finance, and speed of construction.
A wide range of factors can influence the length of time it takes for a new private dwelling to be constructed, including the type of property (house, flat etc.), and the overall size of the site. Depending on the size of the site, the average time from start to completion of the entire site can range from anywhere between around 1.5 to 2.75 years. Individual homes, or blocks of homes, might be completed in shorter timescales if parts of the site are completed in advance of the rest.
After years of very few local authority new build housing completions in Scotland the Scottish Government's introduction of the Council House Building programme in 2009-10 has seen small but significant numbers of new council houses being built. There were 1,138 local authority completions in 2015-16 - down by 2% compared to 2014-15. There were 1,507 local authority starts in 2015-16, an 18% increase on the previous year.
There are relatively few local authority site completions in recent years on which to base any firm conclusions of average timescales between start and completion. However an average of around 1 to 1.25 years for an entire site be completed seems to be fairly typical, rising to around 2 to 2.5 years for some of the bigger sites. Individual homes, or blocks of homes, might be completed in shorter timescales if parts of the site are completed in advance of the rest.
There were 2,320 Housing Association new build completions in 2015-16 - 24% fewer than in 2014-15, and the lowest annual figure since 1999-00. There were 2,906 Housing Association new build approvals in 2015-16, an increase of 10% on 2014-15. Whilst starts totalled 2,881, an increase of 7%.
The map on the following page shows the rates of housing completions in 2015-16 (across all tenures) relative to the population size of each local authority in Scotland. The highest rates were observed in Midlothian, Shetland, Aberdeenshire and Orkney whilst the lowest rates were in Dundee City, Inverclyde, South Ayrshire and East Renfrewshire.
Link to tables on new builds:
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