Ambitious homelessness target must be met in housing market slowdown
23 June 2008
Public investment in affordable rented housing is needed more than ever as the credit crunch bites in Scotland, a major conference will be told today (Monday).
And the current slow down in the private house building market could provide affordable housing providers with opportunities to take up the slack.
The message comes as Shelter Scotland debates how best to reach an internationally acclaimed homelessness target in 2012 . The major conference Homelessness: four years and counting will look at progress towards the target to give everyone a home. Minister for Communities and Sport, Stewart Maxwell, will lead the invited speakers from the world of housing .
The message is that a major 'step change' is needed in delivery if Scotland is to meet the target, particularly in the face of current challenges being thrown up by the wider economy.
Gavin Corbett, Head of Policy at Shelter Scotland, said: 'Shelter has been heartened by the Scottish Government's firm commitment that delivering the 2012 target is still a priority. But if we are to reach that deadline, we need a 'step change' in delivery, including creative measures to house people who don't have a home.
'More affordable rented homes must be a key priority. The current economic climate makes the argument for greater public investment in those homes even more compelling. And there could even be opportunities in the private market downturn for affordable housing providers to compete for land, and even snap up finished units.'
Shelter Scotland is calling for the following actions to be prioritised to help meet the 2012 homelessness target:
- The Scottish Government must undertake a full stocktake on progress on homelessness to ensure that this pioneering programme stays on track and continues to enhance Scotland’s reputation abroad.
- Greater public investment in affordable rented housing. Shelter, along with other housing bodies in Scotland, believes a minimum of 10,000 additional affordable rented homes a year are needed.
- Scottish Ministers should push for creative options to ensure a greater number of affordable lets are available in the housing system. This includes pressing housing associations to help house more homeless people, and using private landlords to fulfil a semi-social role, involving longer-term lets, higher management standards, and measures to address high rents.
- Homelessness prevention - i.e. ways to stop people becoming homeless in the first place, for example, reducing evictions, improving housing benefit payments and providing support to keep people in their homes - should continue to be a priority.
- Further reform of the Right to Buy to ensure that councils can determine how best the policy should fit with the needs of their area.
The conference is sponsored by Orchard & Shipman plc, who are playing a leading role in assisting Scotland's local authorities explore private sector options for temporary accommodation.
Andrew Morrison, Director of Policy & Business Development, said: 'Increasingly, we are finding that local authorities are open to considering freeing up essential resources by utilising the private sector for temporary accommodation provision. This provides both costs savings for council tax payers and assists local authority homelessness staff focus on prevention activities, which are central to the long-term eradication of homelessness.
'In the countdown to meeting the 2012 target, the role for innovative schemes like Private Sector Leasing can only grow considerably.'
Notes to editors
- By 2012 all unintentionally homeless people should have access to a permanent home, under Scottish legislation. Currently, only people designated to be in 'priority need' - generally families with children - have the right to permanent homes. All others have access to only temporary accommodation and support. By 2012, there will be no distinction and everyone will have the right to a home. In 2006/7, just over 42,000 households were assessed as homeless. 77 per cent of those households were determined to be 'priority need' - by 2012 that figure should be 100 per cent.
- For a full list of speakers, visit www.shelter.org.uk/2012
- Spokespeople are available for interview, telephone the media office on 0844 515 2442. An ISDN line number is available for broadcast interviews. For more information about Shelter visit www.shelter.org.uk