By Lucy Ashton
The SNP Government will today stand accused of “presiding over a national housing crisis” when the Scottish Conservatives use their party-business slot to focus on the subject.
Shadow housing secretary Miles Briggs will lead twin debates in parliament – the first, on rising rates of homelessness, with particular focus on vulnerable groups affected; the second, on ministers’ failure to reach house-building targets and the impact of budget cuts and rent controls.
In the first debate, the party will highlight Scottish Government figures showing there are almost 47,000 homeless people in Scotland and 21,000 households in temporary accommodation, as well as their own research showing that 330,000 Scots are on social housing waiting lists.
Miles Briggs, pictured right, is particularly concerned that almost a third of homeless Scots and those on waiting lists are children, while other vulnerable groups such, as disabled people and service veterans, are badly affected by homelessness.
The second debate will focus on the SNP’s failure to meet its target to build 50,000 affordable homes on time, the huge £170 million cash cut in the 2023-24 housing budget and the effect of the rent freeze and evictions ban on private house-building.
Miles Briggs will tell housing secretary Shona Robison to acknowledge the scale of the problem by declaring a housing emergency – as Shelter have called for – and outline immediate plans to tackles homelessness and accelerate home-building to meet the unsatisfied demand.
Miles Briggs MSP said: “It’s no exaggeration to say the SNP Government is presiding over a national housing crisis. While much of the media attention lately has focused, understandably, on ministers’ abject failures in health and education, the housing emergency has gone under the radar. But it’s very real – and demands urgent government action.
“It’s completely unacceptable that there are 47,000 people currently registered as homeless, and a third of a million Scots on social housing waiting lists, including close to 100,000 children and more than 24,000 disabled people.
“There are also more than 600 armed-service veterans registered as homeless, something which should embarrass us as a nation.
“The buck stops with Nicola Sturgeon’s government for this crisis. They have failed to meet their own house-building targets and there’s little hope of the situation improving when John Swinney’s most recent budget outlined a swingeing £170 million cut in the housing budget – and that’s in cash, not real, terms.
“On top of that, we’ve had the SNP-Green rent freeze and eviction ban, which has been counter-productive and damaging for tenants – as we warned it would be – by reducing private rental stock and leading to housing developments being paused or shelved.
“It all adds up to a perfect storm – and it cannot be allowed to continue.
Shona Robison, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney – presiding over housing crisis.
“Shona Robison should admit there’s a national housing emergency – as Shelter have described it – on the SNP’s watch and spell out how she intends to belatedly get a grip of it. Her first step should be persuading John Swinney to reverse his devastating cuts to the housing budget.”
There are about 47,000 homeless people currently in Scotland. The most recent Scottish Government figures have shown that there are 46,964 registered homeless people in Scotland with a breakdown of 32,592 adults and 14,372 children. (The Scottish Government, 18 August 2022, link).
More than 21,000 households are in temporary accommodation. The most recent Scottish Government figures have shown that 21,589 households entered a first temporary accommodation placement, including households who made a homelessness application prior to 2022. (The Scottish Government, 18 August 2022, link).
About 330,000 people are on social housing waiting lists. Data obtained by the Scottish Conservatives indicates that there are at least 233,343 adults in this category, at least 95,293 children, amounting to at least 183,185 households. (STV, 27 April 2022, link).
There are currently at least 24,209 people with disabilities on social housing waiting lists. Data obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, through Freedom of Information, indicated that there are currently at least 24,209 people on social housing waiting lists. 23 local authorities responded to the request by providing data, while the remaining authorities either indicated that they do not hold the requested data, either because they did not hold data on disability or because they have transferred their housing stock to independent companies. Three councils did not respond at all to the FOI requests. This indicates that the number of disabled people on social housing waiting lists is most likely even higher than 24,209. (The Herald, 9 January 2023, link).
There are more than 600 homeless veterans in Scotland. Homelessness statistics in Scotland, show that during 2021-22, 639 households assessed as homeless had a household member that was formerly a member of the armed forces. (The Scottish Government, 6 November 2022, link).
The SNP Government failed to meet its 50,000 affordable homes target on time. The target of building 50,000 affordable homes was set to be delivered in March 2021, however, the SNP Government did not reach its target until one year later, after 9,757 affordable homes were delivered in 2021-22. (Insider.co.uk, 15 June 2022, link).
The SNP Government has cut the housing budget by almost £170 million in cash terms In 2022-23, the SNP Government allocated £888 million towards housing. However, in 2023-24 they will be allocating only £721.6 million. This is a £166.4 cut in cash terms. (The Scottish Government, 15 December 2022, p. 44, link).
A £1 billion plan designed to address the housing crisis was halted because of the Scottish Government’s rent freeze policy. Labour peer Lord Haughey has halted a £1 billion plan to address the housing crisis by building 11,000 affordable homes due to the freeze on council rents. Haughey blamed Patrick Harvie for this by saying: ‘Patrick Harvie’s rent freeze is a big part of my decision [to halt the project].’ (The Times, 10 October 2022, link).
Shelter Scotland have called on Nicola Sturgeon to spearhead an urgent Scottish Housing Emergency Action Plan. The charity has called on Nicola Sturgeon to ‘spearhead an urgent Scottish Housing Emergency Action Plan to protect households in Scotland from homelessness.’ They say that the plan must aim to reduce ‘affordable housing need ’ by 2026. (Shelter Scotland, August 2022, link).