Lack of Scottish social housing now an ‘emergency’

Lack of Scottish social housing now an ‘emergency’

Scotland’s social housing sector is facing unprecedented strain, with a significant shortfall of available homes causing an escalating crisis, according to a report by Solace, an organisation representing local authority executives.

Despite a waiting list of over 243,000 people, the annual allocation of social homes is a mere 26,102. This data points to an “unsustainable pressure” and a “critical lack of capacity” in Scottish social housing.

Solace’s study, carried out in collaboration with the local authority umbrella organisation Cosla and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO), highlights the urgent need for 125,000 additional homes to meet the current demand. Since 2022, however, just 18,583 affordable homes have been built, indicating a 20% reduction in the affordable housing supply in the last three years.

This social housing shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent cost of living crisis, leading to an all-time high in homelessness applications.

Nine of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have failed to provide suitable temporary accommodation as mandated by law. Clackmannanshire, West Dunbartonshire, and Glasgow have the highest rate of applications per head of population.

Including the 243,603 people currently on the waiting list, those in temporary accommodation (14,000 households with over 9,000 children), and Ukrainians in temporary and short-term accommodation (12,000), local councils are obligated to provide housing for at least 269,600 people.

ALACHO estimated in 2020 that as many as 500,000 Scottish households may be living in homes that violate their human rights on at least two counts.

The report recommends an urgent review of homelessness services and social housing provision, suggesting a minimum 10-year plan for comprehensive system transformation. It also advocates for temporary pauses on expanding the definition of homelessness and referrals to areas with no local connection, to avoid exacerbating current pressures.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Despite global issues such as rising costs of construction supplies and workforce issues, the number of affordable homes completed in Scotland in the year to end March 2023 is the highest annual figure since 2000.

“Our long-term strategy, Housing to 2040 sets out a vision for housing in Scotland and a route map to get there.

“It aims to deliver through partnership working with Cosla and local authorities, consistent with the Verity House Agreement our shared ambition for everyone to have a safe, good quality and affordable home that meets their needs in the place they want to be.

“We welcome the contribution of the Housing in Scotland report, which will now be considered fully by the Scottish Government, Cosla, Solace and ALACHO through the established short-life Housing Review Group.”

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