SNP to declare national housing emergency after homelessness soars

The SNP Government will today declare a national housing emergency after an outcry over the impact on children and families.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville will confirm the move after figures revealed 10,000 kids are languishing in temporary accommodation.

The Daily Record has led the way in exposing the heartbreaking impact of the crisis around Scotland.

Homelessness is at record levels, with 30,724 open applications recorded - an increase of 10pc.

Private rental prices rose by 6.8% in the twelve months to January and housebuilding has slumped.

The previous Government of Humza Yousaf was also savaged for a near £200m cut in the affordable housing budget.

Although some councils have declared an emergency, the Government has not yet gone this far.

However, Ministers will change tack today during a debate led by Labour at Holyrood.

Somerville told the Record: “The Housing Emergency is one of the defining issues of a generation – caused by a decade and a half of Tory austerity, soaring inflation as a result of UK Government economic incompetence, and the almost 9% cut in the Scottish Government’s capital budget handed down by Westminster.

“Despite having one hand tied behind our back by Westminster austerity, we have taken firm action on housing – and we can be proud of a record showing we have delivered significantly more affordable homes than in England and Wales, and taken firm action on rent increases.

“But still too many people in Scotland are struggling to make ends meet due to housing costs – or struggling to find suitable housing at all. We will continue to do everything we can with the powers at our disposal to make progress – but truly tackling the housing emergency will rely on a joint approach between UK, Scottish and local government.

“So I am pledging today that I will work constructively and in good faith with the UK Government and local authorities across Scotland in considering what more can be done to tackle the Housing Emergency.

“As a first step, this will require the current UK Government – and the UK Labour Party – to commit to reversing the almost 9% cut to Scotland’s capital budget, and I am today asking the Scottish Parliament to unite with one voice to demand a change in approach and an end to austerity which has caused untold harm to people across the country."

A Government source said the changed position under John Swinney was a sign of a greater focus on everyday concerns.

He has cited cutting child poverty as a top priority and his Cabinet is reviewing Yousaf’s legislative programme from last year.

Scottish Labour Housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “With rents soaring, homelessness at record levels and mortgages through the roof there is no doubt that Scotland is in the grips of a devastating housing emergency.

“The SNP has buried its head in the sand for too long – if they are finally prepared to acknowledge the scale of this crisis that is welcome news, but they cannot deflect responsibility for their role in this crisis.

“Housing is devolved and 17 years of SNP chaos has led to this point.

“Recognising the housing emergency is only the first step – the SNP must set out a real plan to tackle it, including scrapping the brutal cut to the affordable housing budget, reforming planning in order to boost housebuilding, and strengthening the Housing Bill to deliver a fair deal for tenants.”

It comes as organisations united to urge MSPs to back Labour's housing declaration emergency motion today.

An open letter to all MSPs has been signed by representatives from Scotland’s housing sector, local government and the trade union movement.

Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “There’s no question that Scotland is in a housing emergency; 45 children become homeless every day, local homelessness services are cracking under unprecedented pressure, and housing costs are out of control.

“This is a real opportunity for our politicians to show they understand the daily struggles facing the communities they represent and that they’re determined to act.

“That so many organisations have united behind our call to declare a housing emergency sends a clear message to everyone in Holyrood; it’s time to take the lead, come together to declare a housing emergency, and take the action needed to end it.”

STUC General Secretary, Roz Foyer, said:

“It is simply unsustainable for the Scottish Government to keep burying its head in the sand over the housing emergency gripping every corner of the country.

“With more and more local authorities literally on an emergency footing over the lack of housing available, we need to see the proper funding allocated to our councils so they can provide for those most in need.

“Housing is a human right. The new First Minister has our support in his aim of reducing poverty throughout Scotland but, simply put, this cannot be done on a shoestring budget.

“The Scottish Government must seriously look again at their devastating £200 million cut to the Housing Budget and pull on every economic lever possible to ensure our local authorities are properly funded and resourced."

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations chief executive Sally Thomas said: “All the evidence makes it abundantly clear that Scotland is in a housing emergency.

“With homelessness at its highest ever level and a record number of households trapped in temporary accommodation, including nearly 10,000 children, now is the time for action.

“Beyond today’s declaration, our politicians must commit to delivering the affordable rented homes Scotland desperately needs- and that means reversing last year’s hammer-blow cut of almost £200m to the affordable housebuilding budget.”

To sign up to the Daily Record Politics newsletter, click here.