Homes crisis

Labour forces ministers to admit housing emergency

Labour wants to see more homes built

The Scottish Government is ready to admit there is a housing emergency across Scotland but will continue to blame cuts imposed by the Conservatives in Westminster.

Scottish Labour will lead a debate on the issue and call for a reinstatement of a 26% cut to the affordable housing budget and a renewed push on building homes.

It will point to a record numbers of homeless with almost 10,000 children stuck in temporary accommodation, rents are rising at record rates and the number of affordable new homes being approved and started hitting a 10-year low. A number of local authorities have declared a housing crisis.

The call for action comes as the Scottish Property Federation warns that government policies will see Scotland miss out on £4.5 billion of housing investment over the next decade as well as 17,000 construction jobs and thousands of new homes.

Developers and investors, particularly those in the build-to-rent sector, have told ministers that Scotland is regarded as “higher risk” and investment is being directed to other parts of the UK.

A housing bill, introduced by former tenants’ rights minister Patrick Harvie and currently going through parliament, is viewed as making matters worse. Mr Harvie insists that measures led by his Green party improved conditions for tenants and said the policies should not be scaled back.

Housing minister Paul McLennan is known to be sympathetic to the concerns of investors but has defended the rent controls.

“We will continue to work with stakeholders across tenants, landlords and investors as we develop a system of rent control that works for Scotland.”

Scottish Labour Housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “From soaring rents to record homelessness to extortionate mortgages, there is no doubt that Scotland is in the grips of a housing emergency.

“The SNP government has not only ignored this crisis but actively fanned its flames with its brutal cuts to the housing budget.

Rent controls have been criticised by landlords and investors (pic: Terry Murden)

“Tackling this housing emergency is key to dealing with the cost of living crisis and driving down poverty – the SNP cannot remain in denial about the scale of this emergency.  

“The Greens have an opportunity to hold the SNP government to account for a litany of failures on housing, including plans to tear up the Bute House Agreement affordable housing pledge.

“I urge all parties to stand up for struggling Scots and back this motion acknowledging the housing emergency Scotland faces so we can develop a real plan to fix it.”

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville now admits the situation is a “one of the defining issues of a generation” but blamed the Conservatives’ austerity policies which led to a near-9% cut in the Scottish government’s capital budget.

The Conservatives say Scotland gets 25% more funding than other parts of the UK and say Labour has itself contributed to the crisis.

Scottish Conservative shadow housing secretary Miles Briggs MSP said: “The SNP have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this long overdue acceptance of reality.

“The Scottish Conservatives have repeatedly called for a national housing emergency to be declared, but these calls fell on deaf ears until now. SNP ministers have also ignored the calls from charities, as well as five local councils declaring emergencies in their own areas.

“This situation is entirely of the SNP’s making. Shirley-Anne Somerville has typically tried to blame Westminster but the SNP have received a record block grant and it is them who shamefully slashed £200 million from the affordable housing budget.

 “They – along with Labour – also backed the Greens illogical rent freeze policy which has instead hit tenants with soaring rents and has put the pause on much needed housing developments.”

Ms Somerville said: “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.”

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