Black’s Blog: My thoughts on housing emergencies

Black’s Blog: My thoughts on housing emergencies

Jimmy Black is looking for credible solutions to Scotland’s housing emergency and wants SHN readers to help.

Back in 1999, we had around 726,000 socially rented houses. Now we have around 627,000. In 1999 the population of Scotland was 5.1 million. Now it’s over 5.4 million. Does that help to explain the current housing emergency?

For whatever reason, we sold too many socially rented homes, demolished too many others and failed to build replacements. We’re still demolishing viable homes, and the latest Scottish Government budget certainly won’t help us replace them.

The “More Homes” component of the Scottish Budget was £740 million in 2022/23. The figure for 2024/25 is £376m. That’s a massive cut, and you wonder what the Scottish Government thought was more important than building homes during a housing emergency.

Councillors Jane Meagher of Edinburgh and Allan Casey of Glasgow are the politicians doing their best to cope with a situation which has built up over decades. Speaking on the Scottish Housing News Podcast, they spoke about the thousands of homeless people in unsuitable temporary accommodation, and the challenges their councils face in meeting their legal obligations.

Both councils have comprehensive action plans, but it’s clear they simply do not have the money to put all their imaginative proposals into practice.

Allan Casey is considering how commercial spaces might be converted to residential use; and the possibility of temporary modular units on vacant ground to get people out of bed and breakfast.

Jane is struggling with the cost of temporary accommodation in a city where private rents are soaring. It’s clear that both councillors understand that declaring a housing emergency brings no new powers and no new funds, but if it makes the Scottish Government sit up and listen, it’s worth a try. Unfortunately, it hasn’t, as the budget demonstrates.

Shelter’s recent outburst may have come as a surprise to many, as the charity is usually careful not to go over the top with critical comments. I worked for Shelter back in the 1980s when homelessness rose to 18,000 households. Now it’s more like 31,000. I feel Shelter’s frustration.

Jane and Allan represent two different political parties running two rival cities, but when it comes to the housing emergency, they are very much on the same side as Shelter, CIH Scotland and everyone else who recognises a dire situation which cannot be allowed to continue.

OK, then, what would we cut to put another £500m into housing? Or what could we sell, or what could we borrow? Or do differently? Let’s give the government a hand, and come up with some credible answers.

You can hear the SHN podcast on Scotland’s Housing Emergency below.

A transcription of this episode is available here.

Further reading:

The Scottish Housing News Podcast is co-hosted by Kieran Findlay and Jimmy Black. All episodes are available here as well as on the following platforms:

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