20 Jun 2024

Housing coalition urges Scottish Government to ‘change course’ ahead of housing emergency statement

A coalition of leading housing and anti-poverty organisations has called on the Scottish Government to ‘change course’ ahead of a ministerial statement on the housing emergency at Holyrood later today.  

In an open letter to the First Minister, the coalition acknowledged that the Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 and Ending Homelessness Together strategies set out ambitious aims but warned both plans had been ‘fatally undermined’ by spending cuts at Holyrood and Westminster, an absence of accountability for delivery, and a lack of political will to fund a shift away from crisis intervention and towards prevention-based work.  

The coalition includes members of the Scottish Government’s own Housing to 2040 Strategic Board.

The open letter states that the coalition have ‘no confidence’ existing structures can deliver unless the First Minister is willing to invest political capital in changing course. The organisations are asking for an urgent meeting with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to discuss how they can reduce the number of children in temporary accommodation by the end of this Parliament in 2026 and get Scotland building the homes we need. 

The letter was accompanied by an action plan, which sets out four priority areas in which Scottish Ministers should bring forward new approaches to meeting housing need:

  • Urgently increase the supply of new social homes.
  • Make maximal use of existing homes for people in need.
  • Fully fund local homelessness services.
  • Maximise affordability across all tenures.

Shelter Scotland director, Alison Watson, said: 

“Since the founding of the Scottish Parliament there has been much to celebrate when it comes to housing and homelessness, but 25 years on we need to do much more to address record levels of homelessness and the falling numbers of new social homes being delivered. 

“The First Minister has made clear he wants to eradicate child poverty, so it's vital that the Scottish Government prioritises action which reduces the untold harm caused by the housing emergency to the 10,000 children currently trapped in temporary accommodation. 

“Having declared a housing emergency, ministers now have a responsibility to show us what they’re going to differently in tackling it. Things can’t just continue as before; we need to see a new approach to meeting housing need. There is a long way to travel before we can say the housing emergency is even in retreat, but I believe the proposals set out today by this unprecedented coalition of housing and anti-poverty organisations are the right next steps to take us down that path.” 

SFHA chief executive, Sally Thomas said:   

“We’ve come together because we know that decisive action needs to be taken now – and there are clear and unequivocal solutions to this emergency.  

“First and foremost, the Scottish Government urgently needs to increase the supply of new social homes. This can only start by fully reversing successive hammer-blow cuts to the affordable homes programme and showing an iron-clad commitment to publicly funding social homes.  

“This plan provides the path out of the housing emergency, so I’d urge the Scottish Government to step up and take the lead on delivering it.   

“Scotland’s housing emergency is the defining issue of our times. We’re simply asking you to not let Scotland down.” 

Homes for Scotland chief executive, Jane Wood said: 

“Given the scale of the issue and the strong interdependencies across the whole housing sector, we must move forward together, with a collective intelligence, challenging the status quo to find new ways of doing things in order to avoid the same outcomes, or indeed no outcomes at all. 

“Significant challenges, particularly the planning and wider consenting system, continue to impact the deliverability of the high quality, energy efficient and sustainable homes that Scotland needs. With a new leadership in place, this is an ideal opportunity for the Scottish Government to undertake a positive policy reset, with strong direction that embraces clear actions rather than words.” 

CIH Scotland policy and practice manager, Ashley Campbell, said: 

“In March CIH declared a national housing emergency and called on government for a response. In May the government acknowledged the situation – declaring a housing emergency – but we are yet to see an emergency response. Words alone don’t change the situation for the record numbers of people on housing waiting lists and living in temporary accommodation. What we need now is decisive action, backed by funding, to deliver the affordable homes needed across Scotland.” 

Joseph Rowntree Foundation associate director for Scotland, Chris Birt, said: 

“Child poverty cannot be eradicated while so many children in Scotland don’t have a place to call home. Fundamentally our homes must be the foundation from which we can explore our potential and feel safe. As we’ve shown earlier this week – hardship such as insecure housing impacts severely on families and broader public services are struggling to deal with the impacts. This plan sets out the first steps that the Scottish Government must take to end this housing emergency, crucially including increasing the supply of social homes, and start to restore the security that every household deserves. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government, the broader Parliament and the housing sector to bring this emergency to an end.” 

Read the joint statement

Download the joint statement and action plan here.