Scotland is in a housing emergency, and it is getting worse.

The latest homelessness statistics show that almost 14,500 households and over 9,100 children are trapped in temporary accommodation in Scotland. Both of these numbers are a record high and a national scandal. Households with children are being trapped in temporary accommodation for longer and longer periods of time. Some families who are homeless, can spend two years living in temporary accommodation.

The lives and futures of thousands of children are being damaged by the fact they are being denied their right to a stable, secure and affordable home.

Our broken and biased housing system is operating under ever increasing pressure. The pandemic, Brexit, the cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine all mean that there is increasing demand for permanent social homes which are not available, and homelessness services are struggling to cope.

A recent report from the Scottish Housing Regulator showed how close to collapse the homelessness system is. It stated that councils are finding it increasingly difficult to fully meet their statutory duties and for some there is a risk of systemic failure. The report showed that the challenges councils are facing are structural in nature:

Councils face three major strategic challenges in providing homelessness services:

  • dealing with the significant numbers of people currently in temporary accommodation
  • maintaining a sufficient supply of appropriate temporary accommodation
  • ensuring access to the number of permanent homes that are needed.

The structural solutions to the housing emergency

Shelter Scotland has been calling for the structural solutions to the housing emergency to be urgently implemented. Our  Scottish Housing Emergency Action Plan called on the Scottish Government to:

  • Buy and build 38,500 social homes by 2026.
  • Fully fund local authority homelessness services.
  • Guarantee the right to a home for everyone experiencing homelessness.

The recently published  report from the Scottish Government’s Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group calls for similar structural changes to be made in order to reduce the numbers of households in temporary accommodation, and the length of time that they stay there.

The group’s membership included Local Authorities, public health bodies and third sector organisations. It also heard from organisations such as the Scottish Housing Regulator and people with lived experience of homelessness. All of this knowledge and evidence led to the group making fifteen recommendations across three priority areas:

  • Deliver more social homes, including a national acquisition programme.
  • Use the homes we have more effectively to increase the options for people to move out of temporary accommodation into a permanent home.
  • Fully resource homelessness services to provide the support people need to move on.

The evidence is clear: Structural solutions are needed to end the housing emergency, and we cannot afford to wait any longer.

The Scottish Government must fully prioritise and implement these structural solutions. We know this means making tough choices about where to spend the limited funding that is available – but those choices need to be made. The social homes that people need must be delivered, and the services that they require to find and keep a home provided and fully funded. Until this happens, we will see the numbers in temporary accommodation continue to rise, and we will never achieve the wider social justice ambitions of eradicating child poverty and improving health and education outcomes.