Proposed cuts to housing budget ‘worst possible decision at worst possible time’

The Scottish Government is being urged to prioritise resources to deliver more social housing.

Proposed cuts to housing budget ‘worst possible decision at worst possible time’ STV News

Proposals to cut social housing budgets represent “the worst possible decision at the worst possible time” and are a “hammer-blow” to reducing poverty, a coalition of housing and anti-poverty bodies have said.

In an open letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf published in the Daily Record newspaper, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Homes for Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have urged Mr Yousaf to think again about cuts being proposed to the 2024/25 budgets for housing and planning.

It comes the day before Holyrood votes on the draft Scottish budget for the year ahead.

Three local authorities, Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh and Glasgow have all declared housing emergencies after research by Homes for Scotland showed 693,000 households were facing some form of housing need.

The letter says safe, warm, affordable housing is a basic human right and that the draft budget is a “hammer-blow” to the First Minister’s mission for Scotland to be a country of equality, opportunity and community for everyone.

It urged the Scottish Government to “reverse” the “devastating decisions” it had made and prioritise resources to deliver more social housing.

SFHA chief executive Sally Thomas said: “Parliament will tomorrow decide whether to approve the Scottish Government’s budget – a budget that proposes to slash the money available to build social homes by more than a quarter.

“Almost one in 20 people in Scotland are on a waiting list for a social home, 30,000 are homeless and nearly 10,000 children are growing up in temporary accommodation.

“We just aren’t building the homes that Scotland needs.

“The budget proposals represent the worst possible decision at the worst possible time and are a hammer-blow to the First Minister’s priority of reducing poverty.”

Homes For Scotland chief executive Jane Wood said chronic undersupply of housing in Scotland was “intensifying”.

She added: “As we consistently highlight, private and affordable housing delivery are interconnected.

“With 30% of affordable housing generated by the private sector through developer contributions, the more homes for sale that can be built, the more affordable homes will be delivered as a result.

“Given the planning system is already on its knees, the 43% funding reduction being proposed will serve only to increase delay and cost, and do nothing to encourage crucial private sector investment.

“We hope that the First Minister will think again about his Government’s proposals and that all MSPs will carefully consider the housing needs of their constituents as they vote tomorrow.”

Chris Birt, associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “There is still time for the First Minister to do the right thing and reverse this massive cut to the affordable housing supply budget.

“To fail to do so would be baffling in the face of spiralling homelessness and use of temporary accommodation, never mind the Scottish Government’s stated commitment to poverty reduction.

“Low-income tenants will face increasing rents and insecurity as the supply of affordable housing stalls.

“As a result of this cut to housing, this budget risks being a poverty-causing budget rather than a poverty-solving budget, and in the face of looming child poverty reduction targets is difficult to understand and even harder to defend.”

Housing minister Paul McLennan said: “The Scottish Government has led the UK in housing by delivering more than 126,000 affordable homes since 2007, over 89,000 of which were for social rent, including almost 24,000 council homes. We will invest £556 million in affordable housing in 2024-25, the majority of which will be for social rent.

“The UK Government failed to inflation-proof its capital budget and this has resulted in nearly a 10% real-terms cut in our UK capital funding between 2023-24 and 2027-28.

“This is on top of the disastrous impact Brexit has had on construction supply chain issues, labour shortages and the inflationary pressures driven by UK Government financial mismanagement.

“We remain focused on delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 and to support that we will bring forward the review scheduled for 2026-27 to 2024, which will concentrate on deliverability. We are working with the financial community in Scotland, and elsewhere, to boost private sector investment and help deliver more homes.”

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