Scotland has a brief, if infamous, tradition of constructing inferior quality social housing. The Basil Spence-inspired high-rises that dominated the skylines of cities for four decades from the 1960s remain a byword for poorly conceived and executed housing policy.
As the Scottish Government embarks on a new building programme to address the country’s current chronic shortage of available housing stock, it is important that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government set out its first long-term housing strategy with ambitious plans to build 100,000 affordable homes over the next two decades.
Developers will be incentivised to build the 25,000 private sector homes every year, and there are proposals to decarbonise central heating and to create a new fund to put empty homes back on the market.
Ministers aim to ensure that everyone ‘will have a safe, high-quality home that is affordable and meets their needs in the place they want to be’ by 2040.
Newbuild developments are already appearing across the country, including in Edinburgh, to meet soaring demand in the current, fast-selling market.
According to recently published data, 44% of Scottish properties put up for sale this year have sold in two weeks or less, the fastest rate in the UK.
Another study found that the average selling price for a new-build Scottish home was £277,000 in the first quarter of 2021, up 10% on the same period last year.
However, there are some concerning anecdotes circulating that the speed with which newbuilds are springing up is already leading to compromises in quality and even safety.
A reader’s letter to a national broadsheet newspaper recently recounted his ‘truly terrible’ experience of visiting a show home which had ‘flimsy sinks, low-end appliances, cheap doors, mortar covering the air vents, boxy designs and ignorance of vernacular architecture’ leading him to ask ‘why is it like this? How do housebuilders get away with this?’
The same newspaper included comments from a leading surveyor, with a background in litigation cases, who reported coming across examples of serious fire safety breaches on new-build estates in Scotland every week.
There is a world of difference, of course, between safety and unimaginative design or poor finishing.
Nevertheless, it would be worrying if, in the post pandemic rush to produce new family homes, we risk storing up problems for buyers who may find their homes fail to gain in value, or even lose value, making them more difficult to sell further down the line.
Creating substandard properties to meet a short-term demand is not the answer to the current shortage of stock.
Creating a minimum high standard for all new homes, which emphasises the use of superior quality materials and traditional techniques is the answer.
Having said all of that there are of course very reputable developers who can be trusted to build properties to a high specification and standard and there will no doubt be online reviews available for those that do and indeed do not follow this trend.
Any prospective buyer should be able to do some research or ask their solicitor for any opinion as regards particular developers with which they may be familiar.
For more information on selling your home please call Purdie & Co on 0131 346 7240 or visit www.purdiesolicitors.co.uk