Ken Gibb's 'Brick by Brick'

Housing, academia, the economy, culture and public policy

Month: September, 2017

Trends and change in Scottish Housing

This week the Scottish Government published the new trends summary for annual housing statistics across Scotland. There is always something interesting or surprising to be found here and I thought would briefly identify and comment on a few things that struck me (all figures from the new trends summary).

Level of completions

  • In 2016-17, there were 18,539 total completions, the biggest total since 2008-09 but still well below pre-recession levels. Looking at the composition of the total, private completions were down a few hundred at 13,187, housing associations built 2,748 units (428 units greater than 2015-16) and councils built 1,143, much the same as the previous year. However, rehabilitation and conversions accounted for more than 1450 units
  • Within specific council area patterns vary significantly. In our largest cities, for instance, 76% of new supply in Edinburgh is private sector but only 32% is in Glasgow (fully 42% was housing association development).
  • Long term trends suggest private housebuilding, while on an upward trajectory, is still well below the average over the last 20 years.
  • The first diagram show very long trends back to 1920 for the share of housebuilding completions between private and social sectors.

 

Scotsupply

 

Level of affordable supply programme completions and its composition

  • Scotland is spending more than £3 billion of public funds in order to build 50,000 affordable units in the current Parliament, 35,000 of which are to be social. In the first year of this programme, 7,336 units were completed, below the averaged target of 10,000 but 13% up on the year before. Just under 2/3 of these were new build and the rest were either rehabilitations or off the shelf purchases.

Tenure shares and tenure change

  • Tenure change in Scotland continues to be noteworthy. The bulletin points out that in 1981, 40% of the Scottish dwelling stock was owner-occupied, rising to a peak of 63% but then fell back over the last 6 years to just 58% in 2015. Alongside this has been the remarkable growth of the private rented sector, trebling as a share of all units since 1999 and increasing from 10% to 15% between 2008 and 2015.
  • The second chart shows the movement on absolute numbers of the three main renting tenures between 2001 and 2015. The PRS is now comfortably the largest of the three.
  • Locally, home ownership varies from 83% in East Renfrewshire (2015) to 44% in Glasgow (2015). Private renting (also in 2015) varies from 4% in East Renfrewshire to 27% in Edinburgh. For social housing shares, and always the outlier, East Renfrewshire has 12% of its stock in social renting tenures compared to 37% in West Dunbartonshire.

 

tenure

 

Local authority evictions

  • The data indicates that for 2016-17, there were 1,421 evictions or abandonments associated with council tenancies. This equates to 15% of court actions initiated, 5% of all proceedings issued and 0.5% of all lettable stock.

Trend in LA lettings

  • A long term decline in local authority lettings has stabilised. In 2016-17, there were 25,788 lettings, slightly down form the previous year, and 40% of lettings were to homeless households  as against 38% the year before. At the beginning of the previous decade, there were more than 50,000 lettings a year, though much of the reduction is due to stock transfer in general and Glasgow’s transfer, in particular.
  • Only an incomplete proxy for social need or demand, local authority housing lists (and common registers) were standing at, as of 31 March 2017, just over 162,000 households, a 3% decrease on the previous year and the 9th successive annual decrease.

The arc of the RTB in Scotland

  • Just under half a million public sector (and stock transfer) homes were sold under the council house sales right to buy scheme, now ended in Scotland. The third chart shows the rise and fall of annual sales.
  • In 2016-17, RTB sales totalled 3,510, up 38% from the previous year. Locally sales were highest in absolute terms in Fife, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and Glasgow.

RTBScot

Lots to think about in this data but it would be nice to join this up with private market data (via the Centre for Housing Market Analysis) and housing association data from the Scottish Housing Regulator, Maybe one day? I am working with colleagues at the Urban Big Data Centre at the University of Glasgow on monitoring the private rented sector through letting and adverts data – that might help to further close the data loop.

 

 

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Exploring the Scottish Economy

My last official act with Policy Scotland is to participate today in a launch for our edited book ‘The Scottish Economy: A Living Book’. I edited this new overview with Duncan Maclennan, Des McNulty and Michael Comerford. We are immensely grateful to all of those who contributed to the book’s 19 substantial chapters. We think it is a genuinely useful and serious contribution to an empirical understanding of both the state of key sectors and the economic challenges the country faces.

Of course, Scotland is a place for different kinds of economic debates – those that mirror wider conceptual and empirical debates elsewhere about macroeconomic policy, government intervention, national strategies and what works. But is also, rightly or wrongly, where so much of the constitutional debate about Scotland turns. Just in the last week, both aspects of these debates have surfaced as a result of the Scottish Government’s publication of the new GERS data on Scotland’s public finances and in the anticipated economic strategy content of the new Programme for Government to be launched next week.

This book has a unique history. Sir Alec Cairncross established the Department of Social and Economic Research at the University of Glasgow after the 2nd world war as an empirical research–intensive group of social scientists. In the mid 1950s, he edited a book entitled ‘The Scottish Economy’, featuring an empirical account of all the major Scottish sectors, which involved wrestling with often quite primitive data, but as was characteristic of the diagnostic investigative approach, often featuring remarkable forensic analysis of what was available. Of course, post war Scotland is in some respects now barely recognizable but many root issues and characteristics like inequality, spatial variation, the problems confronting Glasgow and the debates over strategy, productivity and growth still to the fore.

The Department of Social and Economic Research begat the Department of Urban Studies in the 1990s and now Urban Studies is a successful subject area in the School of Social and Political Sciences. The ESRC Centre for Housing Research, led by Duncan Maclennan, was located within S&ER, where, for a couple of years, Sir Alec’s daughter, Liz, was a researcher with us. We thought that as a commemoration of that excellent path breaking empirical study, we should seek to re-create its essence 60 years on. Although the subject material has changed (we don’t, for instance, have a chapter on the church in Scotland), we have, we hope, produced a significant substantial volume that should add value for academics, students, political and commentariat classes across many domains in Scotland. Retaining the link to the history of the book, we were delighted that Frances Cairncross could offer a foreword and Laurie Hunter, long term head of the department of Social and Economic Research, could add an afterword, too.

The book has a series of five chapters at the beginning of the book that are broad-based about the history of the Scottish economy since the 1950s, including one on the development of economic policy, alongside chapters on fiscal matters, the contemporary landscape and the Scottish population. We then move on to a series of sector or more topic-specific chapters concerned with issues as diverse as: oil and gas, infrastructure, rural Scotland, education, health, housing, the environment and renewables, the financial sector, urban Scotland, women in the labour force, local government finance, inequality and poverty, and government’s place in economic strategy. Chapters combine careful analysis of descriptive material with reflection on current and future challenges.

The main strength of the book is that we have assembled many of the key writers academic and non-academic who can write with authority on these matters (and they have done so). Second, a distinctive feature is the ‘living book’ element, by which we mean the updatable accompanying website which visualises much of the data contained in these chapters. The empirical focus is a drect legacy of the original Cairncross volume and we hope readers will find it useful. We also intend to use the website to provide periodic additional content, perhaps through blogs and author/editor notes.

In this way, and short of further editions (which we hope there will be an appetite for in time), we hope to overcome the classic problems such volumes face (subsequent events overtake the book). Our main such example, which only features in the introduction, is Brexit. Several of our authors (and indeed one editor) are thoroughly versed in the economic debates around leaving the European Union but our timescales precluded adding a further chapter late in the day. I hope the website will be able to host a series of contributions on that pivotal topic.

It is a nice way to sign off from Policy Scotland and I would like to thank my editorial colleagues, all the 33 contributors, the publisher and Policy Scotland staff and interns and for doing such a great job throughout the project. I wish the new director Chris Chapman well and Policy Scotland continued success. The new housing evidence centre, CacHE, will be working directly with Policy Scotland and we will have many continuing overlapping strands.