It’s not uncommon to hear politicians talk about building more “affordable homes” as a solution to the housing emergency which is devastating communities across Scotland. However, that’s not a phrase we tend to use at Shelter Scotland.

So, what is the difference between an “affordable” and a “social” home.

Affordable housing is a nebulous phrase, one which naturally begs the question ‘affordable to whom?’

The term is used to refer to a range of initiatives including mid-market rent, shared equity, low-cost home ownership schemes and so on. However, while all of these programmes would tend to fall under the banner of “affordable” home ownership they remain far out of reach financially for the vast majority of people experiencing homelessness. They certainly don’t offer any kind of a solution for the nearly 10,000 children in Scotland who currently find themselves homeless, trapped in temporary accommodation.

That’s why our campaign calls specifically for the delivery of more social homes. While social homes do generally fall under the broader umbrella of affordable housing, they are the only tenure type that can offer genuine stability at a price that’s actually affordable for those living at the sharpest end of the housing emergency.

Social housing has been neglected for decades, and that failure is the root cause of the housing emergency we’re now experiencing; It’s why so many people are trapped in temporary accommodation for increasingly long periods of time, and it’s forced more and more people into the private sector and driven up prices there. Reversing that trend and investing in social housing is the only way to mend our broken system.

So, when politicians say they’re committed to delivering more “affordable homes” it’s important to look beneath the surface. Whether they’re bought or built the priority right now needs to be more social homes.