Nicola Sturgeon urged to take action to tackle housing emergency

There is alarm over the impact that the cost of living crisis could have on homelessness.

Nicola Sturgeon urged to take action to tackle housing emergency in Scotland iStock

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to take emergency action to tackle the housing emergency in the face of the cost of living crisis.

In a letter, homelessness charity Shelter Scotland warned the First Minister that thousands of households are struggling to find and keep a home.

It comes after the organisation found that families in the central belt who became homeless are being asked to move hundreds of miles away due to a lack of temporary accommodation where they live.

Statistics were also published showing that more than 8,600 children are trapped in temporary accommodation – the highest figure on record and up by 17% in a single year.

The charity has stated that the statistics should be cause for alarm due to their publication before the full economic impact of the pandemic is felt.

It is also ahead of the cost of living crisis escalating pressure on households during winter, with energy bills set to soar.

Alison Watson, the director of Shelter Scotland, insisted that an urgent national response, led by the First Minister and the Scottish Government, must now be implemented.

The charity has called for a Scottish Housing Emergency Action Plan to be delivered by a dedicated senior government minister with authority to instruct all relevant departments.

They suggest that the plan should include pledges to buy and build 38,500 social homes by 2026, to fully fund local homelessness services, and to guarantee the right to a permanent home for every homeless household.

Watson stated in her letter that if the political will is there, the 8,635 children trapped in temporary accommodation can find a home.

“The First Minister can’t fix energy bills, but she can fix the housing emergency. Scotland was in the grip of a housing emergency before the pandemic hit,” said Watson.

“The political will to get people off the streets during the pandemic showed what can be done, but instead of pushing on and finishing the job of getting more people a permanent home, we have gone backwards.

“The cost of living and energy bills are spiralling, and this, coupled with rent arrears, will push more people into homelessness.

“That’s why the First Minister urgently needs to spearhead this plan. There are options that the Scottish Government can take now.”

Watson insisted that the need for emergency action “cannot be ignored”, as she called for steps to be taken immediately.

“We have said time and time again that the people in Scotland who are facing homelessness or stuck in temporary accommodation cannot wait a second longer for action to be taken,” she continued.

“We will keep saying it until we see it happen.

“We need to build and buy more social homes, fully fund local homelessness services and guarantee everyone’s legal right to a home when they become homeless.

“The need for emergency action cannot be ignored. This demands national leadership now.”

Housing secretary Shona Robison said: “We recognise the enormous pressures households are facing and that is why the First Minister has committed to an emergency budget review to assess all opportunities to target additional resources.

“The recently published homelessness statistics remind us why our commitment to prevent and end homelessness is so important.

“This year we’re providing councils with £23.5m for homelessness prevention and response measures, on top of £8m to help them reduce use of temporary accommodation by moving people into settled homes as quickly as possible.”

“Work is ongoing to deliver on our long-term housing plan, Housing to 2040, which was developed in consultation with the sector and the wider public and aims to ensure that the whole housing system works well to deliver affordable and good quality homes for everyone.”

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