Social Housing Construction (Labour Shortages and Materials Costs)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 15th June 2022.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what impact the reported labour shortages and significant cost increases on materials will have on social housing construction in Scotland. (S6O-01226)

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

We are of course aware of the global issues that are affecting construction and impacting affordable housing delivery. We are working closely with the construction industry and housing partners to mitigate that where possible, and we operate a flexible grant system that can take account of increased costs.

Despite those challenges and the challenges that have been caused by the global pandemic in recent years, including the necessary lockdowns, the Scottish Government has, as I mentioned earlier, delivered 111,750 affordable homes since 2007, with 78,000 of those for social rent. We have passed the target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes, and we are starting on the delivery of an ambitious plan for a further 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

Can the minister elaborate on what modern methods of construction are being considered by developers and the Scottish Government to meet our affordable housing targets?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

There is a great deal of work with the sector to examine the potential for modern methods of construction. We already deliver homes using off-site construction methods—predominantly timber-frame methods—and will continue to support proven approaches. Given the real potential benefits to housing delivery, tenants and the environment, we are considering how we can increase uptake of and investment in off-site construction to support the delivery of more efficient high-quality and net zero affordable homes in the future.

Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

Social housing construction obviously depends on approval numbers, and recently published statistics show that the number of affordable home approvals has dropped significantly, with around 7,800 in 2021-22 compared with 12,800 in the previous year. Since 2016, the figure has never before dropped below 10,000. What is the reason for the drop in approvals, and how can the Scottish Government get the pipeline of affordable home delivery back up to previous levels?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I have now had three opportunities over the course of two questions to remind members that, just this week, we have announced that we have surpassed the target of delivering 50,000 homes since the start of the previous parliamentary session. We are already making progress on delivering a longer-term and even more ambitious target of delivering 110,000 homes by 2032. In my previous answer, I think that I mentioned the figure of 9,000 homes, which have had the most significant impact in any financial year to date.

We are making significant progress. That contrasts very sharply with the approach of the United Kingdom Government, which is contemplating rebooting the desperately damaging right-to-buy policy, which this Government prevented from being introduced in Scotland. We have no intention of repeating the mistakes that the UK Government looks about to repeat.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

What is the Scottish Government doing to address the skills shortage in the construction industry in the islands, which is impacting much-needed social housing projects that have been in the pipeline for years?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

As the member knows, a significant amount of work is being done on skills and the supply chain not only for new builds but for retrofitting, which is a particular challenge in many island communities. We are working closely with the sector to address those challenges. I am sure that there will be much more on which to update the member as we develop the supply chain delivery plan later this year.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Question 5 is from Graeme Dey, who joins us remotely.