Homelessness applications soar 'as Scots struggle with rent arrears'

Scottish Labour branded the figures 'a damning indictment of government inaction' amid the cost of living crisis.

Number of Scots applying for homeless support after eviction due to rent arrears soars, Scottish Labour say Getty Images

The number of Scots submitting homelessness applications after being kicked out of their homes due to rent arrears has soared to 74% in the last year, figures show. 

Data collected via a freedom of information request by Scottish Labour found there were 193 more applications in 2022/23 than the previous year due to terminated tenancies over unpaid rent. 

Figures show there were 455 homelessness applications made in the most recent year, compared with 262 in 2021/22.

Meanwhile those seeking crisis accommodation after defaulting on mortgage payments soared by 65% in the last year, from 108 to 178.

Scottish Labour have accused both the UK and Scottish Governments of “chronic inaction” amid the cost of living crisis. 

Mark Griffin, Scottish Labour’s housing spokesman, said: “The fact that these figures have risen so drastically in just one year is a damning indictment of both governments’ chronic inaction on this crisis.

“The Tory mortgage bombshell has already put thousands of Scots at risk, but instead of offering any real support, the SNP has left Scots to weather this storm alone.

“These numbers are likely to only get even worse over time unless more is done to offer support to people at risk of losing their home or rented accommodation. The fact that these numbers spiked despite the rent freeze shows more must be done.

“Unlike the SNP and the Tories, Scottish Labour has a plan to offer emergency support to help people keep their homes with our mortgage rescue scheme and proposals across the UK to make offering mortgage support mandatory.”

It comes as mortgage rates reached a 15-year high across the UK, with the average fixed two-year rate deal sitting at around 6.8% in August.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government introduced a rent cap, meaning private sector landlords cannot increase rent by more than 3% except in limited circumstances.

However, a report published by Citylets last month showed a significant rent gap emerging between those already in tenancies and those seeking new accommodation, with the average cost of rent at £1,081 in April to June 2023.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The best thing we can do to help mortgage holders and renters is to drive down inflation and our plan to halve it this year is working, with the majority of external forecasters expecting us to achieve our ambition.

“Our Mortgage Charter, covering 90% of the mortgage market, is already helping people get through this difficult time by giving extra protections against repossessions and making it easier to manage monthly repayments.

“That’s on top of the £3,300 on average we are giving each household to help with the cost of living over this year and last.”

Housing minister Paul McLennan said: “Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm is one of three critical missions for this government. This year and last we have allocated almost £3bn to support policies to tackle poverty and the ongoing cost of living crisis. We have continually urged the UK Government to also take urgent action and match our ambitions.

“Although there has been an increase in homelessness applications in the latest year of statistics from people in Private Rented Tenancies, this includes a noticeable drop from October 2022 following the introduction of the Cost of living (Tenants Protection) Scotland Act that placed a cap on in-tenancy rent rises and introduced a delay in enacting evictions.

“We intend to take forward legislation to provide greater protections to prevent homelessness, keep rents affordable, and make tenancies more secure. We are also investing heavily to increase housing supply and the number of affordable homes completed in the latest year to end March 2023 is the highest annual figure in more than two decades. However it’s clear that the UK Government need to take action where they have the levers of power.”

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