As Fife Council teeters on the edge of becoming the fourth Scottish local authority to declare a housing emergency, new survey work commissioned by Homes for Scotland has revealed that there are approximately 693,000 existing households in Scotland in some form of housing need.

Based on direct evidence, the work is intended to assist planning authorities in the preparation of housing need and demand assessments (HNDA), local development plans and regional spatial strategies.

In addition to calculating the existing housing need across Scotland, the report by the Diffley Partnership and Rettie & Co suggests ways in which some of the housing need could be addressed. These include addressing under-occupancy of existing homes; promoting available housing in low demand areas; bringing empty homes back into use; and bringing second homes and short-term lets into longer term use, but the report stresses that building new homes will have to be a significant part of meeting net current housing need. 220,000 households could afford a market housing option to meet their current need if the homes were available to buy.

Taking into account in-situ solutions and the ability to buy out of need, the report identifies an existing net housing need of around 330,000 households; still more than ten times the Minimum All Tenure Housing Land Requirement (MATHLR) set out by the Scottish Government in NPF4.

As NPF4 approaches its first birthday in February, the enormity of the backlog means that there is little to celebrate in terms of housebuilding.

The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee has committed to carrying out an annual review of NPF4 to see how it is being translated into local development plans and the extent to which it is achieving its transformational aims. One of those aims is "to encourage, promote and facilitate the delivery of more high quality, affordable and sustainable homes, in the right locations, providing choice across tenures that meet the diverse housing needs of people and communities across Scotland" yet new home starts were down by 24% in the year to end September 2023.

And with the proposed 26% cut to the Scottish Government's affordable housing programme in 2024/25, which was announced in the December budget, it is unlikely that local authorities will have the funding to make significant inroads into the growing shortfall of homes in their areas in the coming year.

The Committee has a focus on ensuring that Scotland has the number of homes needed to meet current and future need and that house building is taking place in the right places.

Every local authority is working on its new local development plan which will allocate land for housing in its area over the next 10 years. As Jane Wood, Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland, stated in launching the report "we have the opportunity to recognise the true extent of housing need in Scotland and to build the homes of all tenures that we need in adequate number and in the right places".

Every local authority allocating sufficient land to meet the true extent of its housing need. That would indeed be transformational.