These are unprecedented times, and never before have we understood how important having a safe home is. “Stay home, save lives” has been the key message during this health crisis, but due to the housing emergency in Scotland for many people this has not been possible.
Shelter Scotland would like to thank our campaign supporters and people in our communities for campaigning for our 3-point plan to protect people from homelessness during and after the coronavirus crisis1. Thousands of emails have landed in MSPs inboxes, showing the level of concern about the housing emergency from people living in our communities. Our three-point plan has called for:
- An extension of emergency coronavirus powers to prevent evictions until at least April 2021.
- A commitment to another ambitious affordable housebuilding programme with a target of 53,000 affordable homes, 37,100 of which should be for social rent.
- People to be supported to know and assert their housing rights with a strong regulatory framework to protect them. For a new human rights bill with the right to decent and safe affordable housing to be introduced, to strengthen people rights to a decent home.
In addition to the campaigning activity we have engaged with the re-convened Homeless and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to ensure that these three-point plan asks were included in the full set of recommendations from this group to the Scottish Government2.
We are delighted that these recommendations have now been accepted in principle by the Scottish Government!
We will continue to work with the Scottish Government as these recommendations are developed and taken forward.
We campaigned for this 3-point plan as we believe a holistic and strategic approach is required to address the housing emergency in Scotland, which has led to so many people needing to be supported with their housing during this health pandemic. Why have people ended up homeless on our streets, why have people struggled to find and keep a safe and affordable home?
Lack of affordable housing is the main reason people are struggling with their housing in Scotland. Despite the recent 5-year ambitious affordable house building programme, the on-going shortage of homes has led to increasing numbers of people struggling to find a home. People are stuck in temporary accommodation waiting months and in some cases years to find a suitable home; people have been on housing waiting lists for years; and people who have struggled and ended up at the sharp end of homelessness are sofa surfing; living in overcrowded unsuitable accommodation or living on our streets.
Short term urgent emergency measures have been required during this health crisis to support those who are most at risk. The Scottish Government acted decisively and swiftly during the coronavirus pandemic to move those who were sleeping rough into safe accommodation and passed emergency legislation to protect most tenants from eviction for 6 months.
This has meant we have seen those who have been living on our streets, protected and supported in emergency hotel accommodation.
People who are struggling to pay their rent have been thrown a lifeline, as they try and sort out how they can pay their rent, bills and essential living expenses, having suddenly lost their incomes.
However, to ensure people are never at risk of ending up living on our streets again or losing their home through evictions for rent arrears, we will continue to campaign for people to be protected from evictions during and after this pandemic, for an ambitious affordable house building programme to be a priority and for the rights and regulatory framework to be strengthened.
We do not want a return to the “old normal” putting people’s lives and homes at risk during these very uncertain times. We will therefore continue to ensure we build on the positive changes which have been brought about due to the health pandemic, and we will continue working to ensure the recommendations in our three-point plan are carried forward and implemented.
Debbie King is National Policy Advocacy Manager at Shelter Scotland.
 The recently published Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Group (HARSAG) report outlines the recommendations.