The falling rates of social housing new build approvals and starts should mean a greater emphasis on the role acquisitions can play in boosting new supply, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) has argued.

This week’s latest Scottish Government statistics, reported in yesterday’s Scottish Housing News, showed an 18% fall in the number of social housing starts in 2022/23, compared with the previous year.

Whilst acquisitions have long been permitted under the Affordable Housing Supply Programme, with a decent rate of purchases in some local authority areas, GWSF believes there to be a general reluctance on the part of ministers and officials to proactively encourage this option.

Director David Bookbinder said: “Acquisitions of flats in particular can help social landlords gain greater or full control over tenement blocks. Bringing flats into the social housing stock also means there’s a much greater chance of them being improved and made more energy efficient than if they remained in private ownership.

“And acquisitions can help councils achieve wider strategic objectives, for example on homelessness and addressing the dire shortage of larger homes, benefitting family households, including those from ethnic minority communities.

“We do recognise that acquisitions aren’t always straightforward and that not all associations and councils will be in a position to acquire property, not least if they’re now much more cautious about self-funding any part of the cost which exceeds the valuation: this can obviously be an issue in more buoyant housing market areas.

“But given the many current challenges with the new build programme, and with what we must assume is a significant risk of programme underspend in some areas, the apparent tiptoeing around this seems hard to understand. When we met recently with the Housing Minister, we argued that the time was surely right for a real push on acquisitions which are a strategic fit for the local area.”