Aberdeen City Council will manage to build only half of its promised 2,000 homes by next year’s deadline, Town House bosses have confirmed.
The Labour-led coalition running the council pledged £250 million to the ambitious council house building scheme in 2018.
Council leader Jenny Laing’s nine councillors were voted in on a manifesto pledge to add the 2,000 properties to the local authority’s housing stock.
But with only 350 houses added so far, top officials have now confirmed only “around half” – somewhere between 800 and 1,000 – would be completed in the next 12 months.
The other 1,000 are expected to all be under construction by Christmas, however.
There are currently 5,735 applicants on the council house waiting list in Aberdeen – down from 6,100 last April and more than 7,600 in 2015.
Rising construction costs plus shortage of materials and workers likely to continue throughout 2021
Council resources director Steve Whyte blamed a nationwide effort to stir the economy through infrastructure investment for sinking hopes of having 2,000 built within the next year.
“I appreciate everybody thinks of the impact of Covid being sites closed for three months,” he said.
“But what we are actually feeling is the impact in the supply chain, which is pretty dramatic.
“We understand there is a national shortage of cement, for example.
“Visiting sites, contractors explained that they are now struggling to get materials, and this is likely to continue for a considerable period of time.
“So the impact of Covid isn’t just the closure period last year, this is going to be quite extensive and it looks like it will continue for a large part of this year.
“Construction inflation is running exceptionally high as well – in some aspects up to 20%.
“So there is going to be a considerable impact going forward and, in terms of the delivery, our intention is to either complete, or have under construction, 2,000 units by the end of this calendar year or the start of the next – but certainly by May next year.”
So far, the council has built 179 units at Smithfield and Manor Walk, another 67 at Wellheads in Dyce and bought back 104 former council homes.
Designers are yet to be hired for the single largest project at Greenferns, where 897 homes will be built.
Asked by Mrs Laing whether financial incentives would speed up the process at sites around the city, with the aim of getting closer to the 2,000 target.
Mr Whyte said he was “99.9% certain the answer would be no”.
He added: “Unfortunately I do not think we would be able to accelerate the programme any faster if we throw money at it, if I can call it that.”
Around 500 people have so far been involved in the construction projects, with hopes 500 more will be brought in for upcoming work.
Mrs Laing said: “I am delighted that the council’s pledge to build 2,000 homes is well on track.
“This administration is committed to building social housing right across the city and it was gratifying to learn at the capital committee that planning applications for much-needed social housing have been submitted for the regeneration areas of Craighill, Kincorth and Tillydrone.
“These homes will be additional to the homes being delivered at Dyce, Summerhill, Auchmill Road, Cloverhill and Grandhome.”
Citizens will be ‘astounded’ at shortfall against 2,000-home promise
Hailed as the largest council house building programme in Aberdeen for 50 years, the work has proved politically controversial.
It was branded “pie in the sky” by opposition councillors due to claims the 2,000 homes would be built in the dwindling days before next year’s local election.
SNP group leader on the council, Alex Nicoll, said: “We are more than four years into this council term, we’ve only seen a small fraction of the promised homes being delivered.
“It has been clear for a while that the 2,000-homes pledge was not going to be met but I think the shortfall will leave people astounded.
“I would have been sympathetic if the administration had fallen just short of their target given everything that’s been going on.
“To hear that, in a best case scenario, this administration will deliver less than half of the homes they promised shows that they were never on course to meet their commitments this term.
“Unfortunately it seems this administration were more concerned about putting their pledges on billboards than they were about actually delivering them.”
But council leader Laing fired back: “As we move forward with the biggest social house building programme for 50 years, it is disappointing that councillor Nicoll and his SNP group’s only contribution to the housing debate is to snipe from the sidelines and undermine the efforts of our hardworking council officers as they progress with this ambition and much-needed social housing programme.
“As we head towards the election in 2022, I remain very proud of our administration’s record of investing in both the people and place of Aberdeen, including the £250m we included in our 2018 capital budget which has allowed these social homes to be built for the people of Aberdeen.”