Homelessness cases at highest on record, figures show

The number of open homelessness cases in Scotland is at the highest level on record, figures show.

Government statistics released on Tuesday reveal 30,724 live applications were recorded on September 30 of last year, an increase from the previous high of 30,129 in June 2023.

Compared with the same period the previous year, the number of unresolved applications had increased by 10%.

On September 30, 9,860 children were in temporary accommodation in Scotland – a slight decrease from June 30 but an 8% increase compared to the same time the previous year.

The number of people who applied for homelessness assistance between April and September last year having slept rough the night before was also the highest since at least 2020, at 888 – an increase of 23% from the same period the previous year.

Applications from people who reported having slept rough in the last three months was 1,408 – a 20% increase from the previous year.

Matt Downie, chief executive of the charity Crisis, said it is “deeply worrying” to see a rise in rough sleeping, and he urged the Scottish Government to take action through its upcoming housing Bill.

Of the 10,247 people who applied for homelessness assistance, 26% said they had been asked to leave their accommodation, while 19% claimed there was a dispute in their household.

Paul McLennan
Housing minister Paul McLennan said the figures are ‘sobering’ (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

In the three months to September 30, the number of households not offered temporary accommodation was the highest on record – 1,515.

The figure was driven by Glasgow, which accounted for 1,355 such instances, followed by Edinburgh with 125.

A report from the Scottish Government said the figures were caused by Glasgow City Council’s decision to move away from the use of bed and breakfasts for temporary accommodation.

The report said: “This large increase is attributed to Glasgow, who had 1,355 instances of not being able to offer temporary accommodation between July and September, compared to less than five in all previous quarters back to October to December 2020.

“Glasgow has noted this increase is due to the council reducing its use of bed and breakfast accommodation.”

But Glasgow City Council said it had not curtailed the use of B&B accommodation due to the “ever-increasing demand”, adding it is 1,355 instances in which temporary accommodation was not offered – accounting for 514 households.

A spokeswoman for the city’s health and social care partnership said the use of B&Bs has been “significantly expanded” since the declaration of a housing emergency in November.

Housing minister Paul McLennan described the overall figures as “sobering”, adding they “demonstrate the challenge we face in tackling homelessness, which has been made worse by the UK Government’s Local Housing Allowance freeze, cuts to the Scottish Government’s budget and the bedroom tax”.

He said: “Despite this, Scotland continues to have the strongest rights anywhere in the UK for anyone who becomes homeless, but we are determined to ensure no-one need become homeless in the first place and ensure people can stay in their homes.

“I regularly engage with Scotland’s local authorities and work with them to find solutions to the housing pressures they are facing.

“The Scottish Government is doing all it can by making record funding available to councils of more than £14 billion in 2024-25 – a real-terms increase of 4.3% compared with the previous year.

“This includes £30.5 million to local authorities to support their work to prevent homelessness, plus £90.5 million to spend on discretionary housing payments. We are also investing £100 million in the multi-year ending homelessness together fund.”

Of the total number of households made homeless between April and September last year, 13% had been previously in a private rented property, compare to 19% the previous year.

This was due to, Mr McLennan claims, the Scottish Government’s emergency eviction ban.

“The figures show the introduction of emergency legislation to protect tenants during the cost-of-living crisis has likely reduced the number of private renters from becoming homeless,” he said.

“When the emergency legislation comes to an end from March 31, we have outlined proposals to continue to give tenants stronger rights than anywhere else in the UK.”

The figures come as the Government has been under pressure to declare a housing emergency, following the example of three local authorities – Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.

The minister said the Government is “working closely” with councils to increase housing supply through the purchase of “high quality, affordable, permanent homes”.

MSPs have the final vote on the Scottish Government’s Budget on Tuesday, just hours after the publication of the figures, with housing funding facing a near-£200 million cut.

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Miles Briggs said the cut will “only make this grim situation even worse”, adding: “Those ministers must urgently rethink those cuts, finally declare a national housing emergency and get a grip of this deepening crisis.

“It is clear that SNP-Green ministers have lost control of the housing emergency and are simply burying their heads in the sand.”

Labour housing spokesman Mark Griffin said the cut to the housing budget is “shameful”, adding: “The most vulnerable in our society should not pay for SNP financial incompetence”.

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie described the budget as “disastrous”, claiming it “drives a coach and horse through any pretence that this Government cares about the housing emergency”.