Lack of social housing ‘pushing thousands into poverty and homelessness’

Scotland Insitute reportThousands of Scots are being pushed into poverty and homelessness because of higher private rental costs as a direct result of failures to protect the country’s social housing stock, a think tank has found.

While Scotland had almost one million social rental homes in 1990, the report by the Scotland Institute revealed that this had dropped to 600,000 by 2010. It argues that increasing rental costs have seen 210,000 Scots fall into poverty simply due to the extra burden of housing costs, with 120,000 of these renting in the private sector.

Scotland Institute chairman Dr Azeem Ibrahim said: “We need radical action to counteract the severe crisis in our country’s housing which can only be addressed by re-imagining local taxation to force unused land into use and curb land price inflation which lies at the root of many of our problems with the availability and affordability of housing

“The Scottish Government has done good work on reducing homeless and providing 31,000 homes under the Affordable Housing Act in four years but this it is not nearly enough to repair decades of neglect.

“UK government policy, especially welfare changes such as a benefit caps, housing benefit reductions and the impact of Universal Credit will all place the family incomes of the poorest in our country under even more pressure so we must act quickly.”

The report Housing Costs, Poverty and Homelessness in Scotland, follows up on two other recent publications by the think tank that looked at the longer term impact of the 2008 financial crisis, and the subsequent flawed recovery, on the incomes of Scottish households.

It found that homelessness in general is falling across Scotland, in part due to government policies, but that in 2015 it has been estimated that 50,000 adults – or 1.1 per cent of the population – experienced some form of homelessness, with 5,000 of those having at least one night on the streets. The main reason for this is simply lack of income caused by the high costs of housing.

Equally housing issues correlate closely to both occupation and age, meaning some social groups are affected disproportionately more than others. For example, 82 per cent of those in higher managerial jobs own their own homes, compared to 55 per cent in more routine occupations. More over 55s and under 34s also access social renting than private.

Rent differentials mean social housing in Scotland is £65 per week while the private sector is £108pw – and housing costs take up a higher proportion of income for those on the lowest incomes.

The report concludes that while the current social housing practice in Scotland is welcome and a move in the right direction, it is simply not taking place in high enough numbers to make the difference needed.

It calls for an urgent discussion to take place about potential solutions before the current housing crisis worsens further.

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