Homelessness must not be seen in isolation, argues GWSF

New recommendations to be made by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) must avoid looking at homelessness in isolation from the wider housing system, according to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF).

Homelessness must not be seen in isolation, argues GWSF

David Bookbinder

Submitting comments to HARSAG, which was reconvened a fortnight ago to review homelessness in the light of COVID, GWSF said it recognises the huge additional pressures which the pandemic is putting on homelessness services, but that social landlords will face a wide range of pressures on their stock as the sector gradually emerges from lockdown.

GWSF director David Bookbinder said: “With the fall in void turnover, combined with homelessness presentations running as high as 80% of the norm during COVID, our member associations know that they will be asked to allocate a very substantial proportion of their lets to homeless households, and it’s crucial that we play our full part in supporting local councils on this.

“But at the same time, some of our members are already reporting pressure from local councillors and MSPs advocating on behalf of constituents on the housing list. And there will be pressing demands from associations’ existing tenants, for example as a result of domestic abuse which has sadly become even more prevalent during lockdown.”

Mr Bookbinder said, whilst he can understand why HARSAG, and indeed some individual councils, may want to advocate 100% of lets going to address homelessness, there has to a full understanding of the implications of this:

  • Any imposition of a new law on 100% allocations would have serious equalities implications, as it would equate to predominantly housing single males at the cost of addressing a wide range of different needs
  • Giving up all control over our allocations, along with other proposed measures such as losing control over all evictions, would almost certainly be deemed by the ONS to constitute a degree of public control which would lead to a further reclassification of housing associations as public bodies, putting all housing association debt onto the Scottish Government’s books.

Mr Bookbinder added: “Many of our members have been leasing property to their local council so that they can be used as temporary accommodation during COVID, and associations stand ready to play a major role in providing settled tenancies to homeless households. We can and will do that without giving up control over how we operate as independent organisations in the community.

“The crisis we’re facing shows how critical it is that all possible ways of boosting supply in the short term are explored. This should include increasing use of leasing from private landlords to expand the supply of temporary accommodation, and using mainstream housing investment to fund the acquisition of privately owned flats.

“It also shows how badly we need to see a long-term continuation of pre-COVID levels of investment for new supply, as was called for by the joint research published last week.”

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