Housing minister accepts amendment to limit stays in unsuitable temporary accommodation

The Scottish Government has pledged to bring forward legislation to restrict the use of unsuitable temporary accommodation for homeless people in the next programme for government.

During a debate on homelessness in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, housing minister Kevin Stewart said the government would consult on the issue early in 2019.

He said: “We recognise that work needs to be done here. We will consult on all of this at a very early stage next year and bring forward legislation in due course to tackle this.”

Mr Stewart made the announcement in response to a Scottish Conservative motion calling for seven-day limit, which he said the government would support.

The minister said temporary accommodation services in Scotland, such as B&Bs and hostels, need to be more “personalised”.

Earlier this week a cross-party group of MSPs called for a seven-day limit to be introduced for B&B use as temporary accommodation.

In a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the MSPs suggest changing the law so that homeless people are moved on into more settled housing after one week.

The joint statement was signed by Andy Wightman (Green Party), Pauline McNeill (Scottish Labour), Alex Cole-Hamilton (Scottish Liberal Democrats) and Graham Simpson (Scottish Conservatives).

A report by homelessness charity Crisis indicated that 84% of 74 people stuck living in B&Bs, hotels or unsupported hostels felt isolated by their living situation.

Nearly half of the respondents reported that they had no access to cooking facilities.

Another report from Heriot-Watt University’s Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE), explored in this blog from senior research fellow Beth Watts, which found that the current temporary accommodation system is not fit for purpose.

Graham Simpson MSP said he was “delighted” to hear the minister’s announcement.

“Curfews for goodness sake – these people are not criminals,” he said.

“These lives in limbo should not be tolerated.”

Pauline McNeill MSP said: “The scandal of temporary accommodation and the law being broken on a regular basis has to require urgent action by the Scottish Government.

“Crisis have recently drawn attention to the fact that it’s not just the number of people in temporary accommodation, but it’s the suitability of that accommodation that needs to be addressed.

“In the past year there were 400 placements involving a breach of the unsuitable accommodation order.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Greens have criticised SNP and Conservative members who voted down its calls for a legal review to protect private tenants.

Greens housing spokesperson Andy Wightman MSP said the Scottish Government risks undermining its own new homelessness action plan unless it strengthens the law to curb unfair rent rises and evictions.

Mr Wightman said: “There’s cross-party commitment to ending homelessness and Greens welcome the publication of the government’s new action plan, but we’ll continue to argue that as well as challenging the social and economic causes of homelessness we need to tackle market and legal failures too.

“The law, as it currently stands, allows tenants to be evicted on eighteen statutory grounds, which include landlords selling up at short notice, going bust, or converting a residential tenancy to a short-term let. That falls well short of delivering on any sense of housing as a human right.

“We must also acknowledge the pressing need for proper rent controls. Private rents in Lothian have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation over the last eight years, forcing people into homelessness. Unless it addresses the vulnerability of tenants to rent rises and unilateral actions by private landlords, the Government risks undermining its own new action plan.”

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