Numbers seeking advice over homeless threat 'soars to record high'

Open housing advice cases with housing Options services 'have hit a record high'.

Number of Scots seeking advice over homeless threat grows to record high, Scottish Labour says iStock

The number of people in Scotland approaching a housing advice service aimed at preventing homelessness has soared by more than 50% in a single year.

Open housing advice cases with housing Options services have hit a record high, according to Scottish Labour, which has warned against a “cliff-edge” in housing support after pandemic protections were lifted.

Housing Options services provide support and advice for people facing homelessness or other issues. Most people who seek advice will go on to make a homelessness application, with 55% of cases having this outcome last year.

According to a Housing Options report released by the Scottish Government and shared by the party, the number of people approaching this service rose by 7% in 2021/22 as protections introduced during the pandemic were lifted.

The number of open cases increased by 13% to the highest point since records began in 2014/15.

There are currently 25,525 open cases compared to 22,545 in 2021.

The number of people approaching services due to a risk of homelessness because of eviction or mortgage defaults rose from 361 in 2020-21 to 554 in 2021-22.

Scottish Labour argues this is as a result of the emergency protections introduced during the pandemic ending.

The party has urged the Scottish Government not to “repeat mistakes” when measures introduced to manage the cost-of-living crisis come to an end.

Mark Griffin, Scottish Labour housing spokesperson, said: “This damning report lays bare how badly tenants and homeowners were abandoned after the pandemic.

“Thousands of people were put at risk of homelessness when Covid protections were stripped away without any safety net.

“These figures are a stark warning to the SNP that they cannot make the same mistake again when the current rent freeze and evictions ban draw to an end.

“No-one should lose their home because of this cost-of-living crisis – we need a real long-term plan to prevent homelessness, protect tenants, and help homeowners, before a second wave of homelessness hits.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Many people who rent their homes are facing real difficulties because of the cost-of-living crisis right now and over this winter.

“That is why the Scottish Government acted urgently to bring in emergency protections to stabilise tenants’ housing costs. Rents are now temporarily frozen for the majority of people who rent from a private property owner, housing association or council, as well as those in student accommodation, until at least March 31, 2023.

“We are also providing up to £86m housing support this year, building on the £39m of additional funding already provided to protect tenants as a result of the pandemic.

“Looking beyond the current temporary measures, we have already committed to delivering a New Deal for Tenants which, amongst a range of actions to improve tenants’ rights, will also see a robust system of rent controls put in place by 2025.”

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