Extra £80m to bring properties into use as affordable housing

Extra £80m to bring properties into use as affordable housing

Efforts to boost affordable housing supply by acquiring properties to bring into use for affordable housing and help reduce homelessness will be given an £80 million uplift over the next two years, the Scottish Government has announced.

The funding, announced by First Minister Humza Yousaf on a visit to Hillcrest’s Derby Street development in Dundee, will increase the affordable housing supply programme budget to nearly £600m in 2024-2025.

It partially reverses a controversial £196m cut — more than 25% — included in the Scottish Budget.

The investment will help reduce the time spent in temporary accommodation, including by children, and will also accelerate discussions with COSLA in relation to the number of local authority void properties.

Mr Yousaf said: “Housing is essential in our efforts to tackle child poverty and reduce inequality across Scotland, and it supports jobs and growth in the economy. Providing good quality, affordable housing is at the very core of what my Government is doing to make Scotland a better place.

“While there is a single person homeless in our country, it is simply not acceptable to have houses sitting empty – so I am determined that we remove the barriers, and provide the money that will enable councils to buy properties so they can become affordable homes again.

“This £80m will build on the success of our National Acquisition Programme which I announced last year, which spent more than £60 million and delivered more than 1,000 affordable homes. This is one of a number of actions we are prioritising to help to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation. We will also accelerate discussion with COSLA in relation to the number of empty council homes.”

The measure has been welcomed by many but with the caveat that the funding is not enough to arrest a freefall in the supply of affordable homes.

Sally Thomas, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said the move would not address the core issue of needing to build homes at scale.

She said: “For months we’ve repeatedly called on government to reverse the huge £200m cut to the affordable housing programme, so I’m pleased to see the First Minister at least considering the issue of housing.

“However, fundamentally what we need are the funds to build – and this simply will not build a single new social home.

“With freefall in supply, this funding announcement pales in comparison to what we’ve lost and unfortunately represents little more than a sticking plaster during a national housing emergency.”

Callum Chomczuk, national director of CIH Scotland, said: “While any increase in funding for social and affordable housing is welcome, unfortunately the additional £80m over two years for acquisitions does not go far enough.

“Scotland is in a housing emergency, with housing and homeless services at breaking point across the county and we need a clear plan from the government in how to address this.

“The most recent budget took £200m out of this year’s affordable housing supply budget and that was before we had confirmation last month that affordable housing approvals and starts are at a 10-year low.

“We need the upcoming review of the Affordable Housing Supply programme will provide clarity over how we fund the social and affordable homes Scotland needs.”

Shelter Scotland urged the First Minister to make social homes the “bedrock” of his plan to tackle homelessness and child poverty.

While it welcomed the restoration of a portion of the funding, the charity stressed that the housing budget had still faced a significant cut at a time when investment was urgently needed.

Shelter Scotland director, Alison Watson, said: “When the Scottish Government cut the housing budget earlier this year, we made no secret of our dismay and, indeed, our anger that such a decision could be taken during a devastating housing emergency.

“While I’m pleased that today the First Minister has committed to restoring a portion of that lost funding, the housing budget has still suffered an enormous cut at a time when social housing desperately needs significant investment.

“If the First Minister is committed to a ‘reset’ then he should take that opportunity to make social housing the bedrock of a plan to tackle homelessness and child poverty.

“Delivering social housing builds a better, fairer, Scotland; we’ll continue to urge the Scottish Government to demonstrate its commitment to that vision.”

Homebuilder sector body Homes for Scotland described the announcement as doing little to alleviate the glaring black hole in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme (AHSP) budget following its recent 26% cut and absolutely nothing to increase the overall supply of homes.

Fionna Kell, director of policy, said: “Whilst we, of course, welcome additional AHSP funding coming forward, the truth is that £80 million split over two years will do little to address the original 26 per cent reduction of nearly £200m this financial year.

“With four local authorities having declared housing emergencies and recent independent research highlighting that over a quarter of all Scottish households find themselves in some form of housing need, the sector is crying out for long-term investment certainty to be prioritised with the appropriate funding, resource and evidence-based regulation needed to address the intensifying housing crisis rather than short-term ad-hoc measures.

“It is in this context that we are calling on the First Minister to carry out a comprehensive and holistic policy review to ensure we have a housing system that supports the delivery of high quality homes across all tenures to support ambitions for a just transition and wellbeing economy. Action to significantly increase new supply is fundamental to this.”

Ewan Aitken, chief executive of Cyrenians, said: “The importance of homelessness prevention duties included in the Housing (Scotland) Bill cannot be lost in the shuffle of power between parties.

“Scotland is in a fully-fledged housing emergency. At last count, there were 15,625 households and 9,860 children in temporary accommodation, often for years at a time. This is not acceptable, action is needed and fast.

“With the wait for social housing only growing, Scotland desperately needs more homes but we also cannot ignore the causes of homelessness which includes poverty, family breakdown and addiction. We need consistent, long-term commitment to both prevention and housing production, otherwise the government will continue to fail the most vulnerable people in our country, no matter who is leading it.”

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “This is a desperate last-minute announcement that will do next to nothing to tackle the housing emergency or to undo the damage done by £196m of SNP cuts to the housing budget.

“This half-baked announcement will not tackle our homelessness crisis.”



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