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Housing emergency worsens with more councils failing to meet homelessness obligations

This news post is over 1 year old

Scotland's housing crisis deepens

Councils are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their statutory duties on homelessness, particularly providing temporary accommodation, a new report has found.

And Shelter Scotland has responded to the report by the Scottish Housing Regulator warning

the supply of more social homes must be prioritised by the Scottish Government. 

The report found that councils are making considerable efforts in very challenging circumstances to provide homelessness services and highlights three major strategic challenges councils are facing: dealing with the significant numbers of people currently in temporary accommodation; maintaining a sufficient supply of appropriate temporary accommodation; and ensuring access to the number of permanent homes that are needed.

From March 31, 2021, 178,260 applications were recorded on local authority or common housing register housing lists, an 8% increase on the 164,946 applications in 2020, with the regulator saying the rise was likely to have been impacted by the pandemic.

In 2021/22 social landlords let a total of 53,000 homes.

The report calls on the Scottish Government to consider what further measures it can take to support councils to respond to the challenges they face in delivering services for people who are homeless. 

John Jellema, SHR’s assistant director of regulation, said: “There are actions councils can and should take to respond to these challenges, and there are other improvements to services they can make. All councils should continue best efforts to meet their statutory obligations.

“The Scottish Government has put in place a wide range of policy actions aimed at achieving the goal of ending homelessness in Scotland.

“Having said that, the Scottish Government may need to consider what further urgent measures it can take to support councils to respond to the immediate challenges they face in delivering services for people who are homeless.”

The report also notes that some households do not always receive a service that meets their specific needs, further demonstrating that the system is broken and biased. 

Shelter Scotland director, Alison Watson, said: “The Scottish Government know how to fix homelessness and the wider housing emergency in Scotland.

“As indicated in this report, an adequate supply of permanent, affordable housing provided by councils and RSLs is vital in ending homelessness.

"Over the years they have been presented with endless evidence and testimony that investing in social housing ends homelessness, tackles child poverty and is crucial in fighting the housing emergency. Yet, they are choosing to look the other way as thousands of families continue to struggle. 

“If ever there was a clearer message from the sector that the time to act is now, this is it. The Scottish Government must recognise that its choices to ignore the housing emergency will have devasting consequences for the fight against homelessness.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is clear that every local authority in Scotland has the legal duty to provide accommodation for anyone facing homelessness and it is unacceptable that anyone is turned away when they need help.

"We know the pressure on temporary accommodation has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has led to a backlog for local authorities.

“To help ease this pressure we are working with local authorities to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation. The Housing Secretary has written to the councils where this issue is most acute to discuss how it can be addressed – the first of these meetings will take place shortly.

“We have also commissioned an action plan from experts in the sector to inform this work.

"We are providing £100 million to transform the homelessness system and providing local authorities with £30.5 million for their work to prevent and respond to homelessness.”