For the Scottish Government, declaring a housing emergency was perhaps inevitable, with local authority after local authority finding themselves with no other option but to declare that they could not meet their housing obligations, and more still declaring this after the Government’s announcement.

But what to do now?

That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind. And more specifically, how not to lose this issue in the noise of general election campaigning?

On this, the Scottish Government seem less sure footed. There was some confusion in the weeks after the announcement about whether or not an action plan would be forthcoming.

At the time of writing, this does not seem to be the case. The SNP manifesto mentions the housing emergency just once as a sub heading pledge alongside 21 others as part of creating a just and healthier Scotland, which some in the sector have taken to be a signal of their prioritisation of the issue that they (albeit under pressure from other political parties) declared to be an emergency.

There are three areas in which any response to the housing emergency must focus:

  • Tackling homelessness. There has been a year-on-year 10% increase in open homeless cases in Scotland according to the Government’s own statistics, which includes 10,000 children stuck in temporary accommodation. Alleviating this issue requires more available homes, which leads to:
  • Increasing funding for socially rented homes. The cuts to the housing budget in December of last year have been catastrophic for the housing supply chain and if we are to end the housing emergency, more funds must be available to landlords willing to invest in new homes
  • Clarifying and modifying the position on rent controls. It could be argued that the Scottish Government created this perfect storm by both stymieing the building of social homes and introducing rent controls that motivated private landlords to leave the private rented sector, further exacerbating issues of lack of supply. In order to stabilise this issue the Scottish Government must make its position on the private rented sector clear and work collaboratively with the sector to ensure it can sustain itself as the provider of 370,000 homes in Scotland.

No one is under the illusion that this is a problem that can be resolved overnight, it has grown over a number of years, and developed in a number of different ways. However, to simply declare it an issue and offer nothing further by way of tackling it adds insult to injury for all those who are trapped in either unsuitable, temporary or unaffordable housing.

This article was written by Julie-Ann Cloherty, Learning and Development Officer at Share.