Action on housing emergency condemned as building standards legislation delayed

Housing minister Paul McLennan said the tenure-neutral housing standard will not now be introduced next year.

Action on housing emergency condemned as building standards legislation delayed PA Media

More needs to be done to tackle Scotland’s housing emergency, ministers were told after a delay on adequate building standards legislation was announced.

Housing minister Paul McLennan delivered a ministerial statement in Holyrood on Thursday in which he outlined an ambition to reduce the number of children living in temporary accommodation in Scotland.

But he also said the Government “cannot achieve everything at once”, and confirmed work to introduce a tenure-neutral housing standard would be “rescheduled”.

Legislation was initially supposed to be introduced next year, but McLennan said a public consultation on the matter would be launched in 2025 instead.

The legislation would introduce a housing standard to cover all homes with no margins of tolerance, no exemptions and no “acceptable levels” of substandard homes.

But in Holyrood, he said: “I recognise that we cannot achieve everything at once and we must focus on activity which will reduce harm, particularly that experienced by households with children.

“We decided to reschedule work on a new tenure-neutral housing standard. Rather than seek to introduce legislation in 2025 we intend to publish a public consultation on this matter by 2025.”

McLennan was then told his statement was not an appropriate response to the housing emergency declared last month.

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Miles Briggs said: “A month ago the Scottish Government did declare a housing emergency.

“What we’ve heard today does not sound or feel like an emergency response to that. We need to see more.”

He said 45 children become homeless in Scotland each day.

Briggs added: “In the time remaining in this Parliament, we have an opportunity to make a difference, in line with the First Minister’s policy around eradicating child poverty, but we need a single-minded focus on reducing the harm experienced by children living in temporary accommodation.”

Scottish Labour housing spokesman Mark Griffin said: “We have got a Housing Bill that doesn’t build a single house, all the while 45 children are becoming homeless every single day, and that will keep happening because the Government aren’t doing anything differently other than cutting the housing budget.

“I’m not entirely sure why we had this statement today.”

McLennan addressed the number of children in temporary accommodation, saying: “We know the number of children in temporary accommodation is too high and it is a priority for myself and the Scottish Government.”

The statement came after a coalition of housing organisations, including Shelter and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, warned they have no confidence in the Scottish Government’s plans to tackle the housing emergency.

In an open letter to First Minister John Swinney, they warned current strategies had been “fatally undermined” by spending cuts in recent budgets.

The affordable housing budget was cut by £200m in the latest Scottish Budget, with £80m later restored, accounting for a £163m cut – or 22% in real-terms – from 2023-24.

The coalition has demanded ministers deliver the political leadership required to reduce the number of children in temporary accommodation by 2026 after figures showed 9,860 were in such conditions on September 30, 2023.

The letter said: “We need political leadership with the power and money to deliver. We do not have any confidence that the current structures can deliver unless you are willing to invest your political capital in changing course.”

It went on to say declaring a housing emergency was a “first step”, and there “remains a much further distance to travel until we can say Scotland’s housing emergency is in retreat or even close to ending”.

The group also called for an urgent increase in the supply of new social homes and for the full funding of homelessness services.

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