An official housing emergency declaration is on the horizon for Fife Council unless it receives urgent support from Westminster or Holyrood.
It would be the fourth local authority in Scotland to take that stance, following in the footsteps of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Argyll & Bute.
The warnings come amid a 7% increase in homelessness presentations in the region this year.
At present, there are around 1,900 households in the Kingdom assessed as homeless and waiting for a council tenancy.
It was also revealed that the council has breached the Scottish Government’s housing requirements 27 times in the new year.
“Given there are nine working days between Christmas and today, that means there have been three statutory breaches every single day,” Councillor John Beare (SNP for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch) stated.
It was previously reported that the council was “regularly” breaching the government’s unsuitable accommodation order because of its use of hotels and B&Bs to accommodate people who present as homeless.
Those pressures have now been compounded by the Scottish Government’s 2024-25 draft budget. If approved, the Government will cut support for the Affordable Housing Programme by 26% this year.
Fife’s housing spokesperson, Councillor Judy Hamilton (Labour) said that the cuts as proposed will take Fife Council “to the brink of a housing emergency.”
“The real way out of homelessness is to build more houses,” she explained. “Since 2012, we have sought to build up one of largest and most sustainable new build social housing programs in Scotland and indeed in the UK. But now that is under threat by the direct cut announced by the Scottish Government to the budget for their 2024-25 Affordable Housing programme in Scotland.”
She continued: “It’s a reduction of 26% for next year and a 37% cut over two years from previous levels. That will have a significant impact on our ability to continue to build new council houses.”
Fife’s affordable housing programme has four partners: the Scottish Government, developers, Fife Council and Fife Housing Association Alliance.
“Now, one partner [the Scottish Government] is pulling the rug out from under the other three,” Cllr Hamilton stated.
Lib-Dem group leader Jonny Tepp (Tay Bridgehead), wanted to declare an emergency immediately.
“Some of us wanted to call a housing emergency today – the situation is terrible,” he said. “However, we were persuaded that [writing for help] is a necessary first step. We haven’t seen the final budget yet so we hope there’s still time to influence.
He added: “We know reducing this budget hits those struggling most the hardest …The impact will be felt across all local authority housing services and make the homelessness situation we face worse.”
Cabinet Committee members unanimously urged Council Leader David Ross (Labour) to write to the First Minister, the Prime Minister and the leaders of all political parties at the Scottish Parliament for urgent help.
Council opposition leader David Alexander (SNP) argued that the urgent support should come from the UK Government because he said additional money “doesn’t exist in Holyrood.”
Regardless of where the help comes from, councillors of all parties agreed that the homelessness crisis is a serious problem that requires urgent attention.
Ultimately, the committee reached unanimous agreement. Cllr Ross will now write to the First Minister, the Prime Minister and the leaders of all political parties at the Scottish Parliament asking for urgent help.
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