Housing and homelessness statistics

Shelter Scotland works towards making sure there is a home for everyone, and that this home is safe, secure and affordable.  

Here you'll find all the latest facts about housing and homelessness in Scotland – and you'll find the figures speak for themselves.

How many people are homeless in Scotland?

  • Every 17 minutes a household becomes homeless in Scotland

Number of applicationsNumber of assessments as homeless

In 2019-20, 36,855 homeless applications were made, and 31,333 households were assessed as homeless by their local authority. This equates to a household losing their home every 17 minutes.

The number of homeless applications has increased over the past 3 years. Applications had been going down due to the renewed preventative approach adopted by local authorities in the form of housing options; but this new rise tells us that the Housing Options approach is no longer enough. (Housing options statistics are covered in more detail below.) There is an urgent need to tackle the underlying drivers of homelessness.

Source: Scottish Government, Homelessness in Scotland 2019-20

How many children are homeless in Scotland?

  • 15,711 children were in households assessed as homeless in 2019-20

  • This is equivalent to 43 children in Scotland becoming homeless every day

Who makes homeless applications in Scotland?

Household typePercentage of homeless applications in Scotland
Single male46%
Single female20%
Female single parent17%
Male single parent5%
Couple with children4%
Couple without children4%
Other without children2%
Other with children2%
Age groupNumber of malesNumber of femalesTotal number
16-17 years old4566031059
18-24 years old294632986244
25-34 years old5751459510346
35-49 years old551738189335
50-59 years old179311182911
60+ years old8386001438

The number of single males who are assessed as homeless makes up nearly half of all homeless households. Females under 24 are slightly more likely to become homeless than males under 24.

Source: Scottish Government, Homelessness in Scotland 2019-20 

Why do people become homeless?

Reasons for homelessnessPercentage
Dispute with household / relationship breakdown (non-violent)19%
Asked to leave accommodation24%
Action by landlord or lender12%
Left hospital, prison or care6%
Dispite within household (violent or abusive)13%

Nearly half of all homeless applications in 2019-20 were due to relationship breakdown or being asked to leave.

The category of 'other' includes loss of accommodation tied to employment, an emergency such as a fire or flood, and overcrowding, among other reasons. 

Source: Scottish Government, Homelessness in Scotland 2019-20

Where do people live before applying as homeless?

Where people live before applying as homelessPercentage
Private rented accommodation16%
Tied accomodation1%
Owner occupier3%
With friends, family or partner41%
Supported accommodation5%
Social rented accommodation14%

Source: Scottish Government, Homelessness in Scotland 2019-20

How many households live in temporary accommodation in Scotland?

On 31 March 2020, there were:

  • 11,665 households in temporary accommodation in Scotland

  • 3,570 households containing dependent children and pregnant women in temporary accommodation across Scotland

  • 7,280 dependent children living in temporary accommodation across Scotland

Six months was the average time spent by households in temporary accommodation in 2019-20. Households with children spent, on average, 8 weeks longer in temporary accommodation than those without.

Source: Scottish Government, Homelessness in Scotland 2019-20

More information about the use of temporary accommodation can be found in our policy library, e.g. 'Time in temporary accommodation 2018'

How many people are on council waiting lists in Scotland?

  • 315,625 is the total number of local authority homes in Scotland on the 31st March 2019

  • 132,000 is the number of households on local authority housing waiting lists across Scotland

The 132,000 figure is likely to be an underestimate of the true level of need, and doesn't include households on lists for housing association homes (which, for example, is all the social housing in Glasgow).

Source: Scottish Government (2019), Housing Statistics for Scotland

What kind of housing do people live in?

Type of housingPercentage
Owner occupied62%
Social rented23%
Private rented14%

The primary tenure for households in Scotland is still owner occupation, however 14% of households now live in the private rented sector, which has more than doubled in the last ten years.

You can look at how this tenure split differs by local authority area on the local statistics pages.

Source: Scottish Government, Scottish Household Survey 2018 (published 2019)

Housing conditions

  • Over 1 in 10 households in Scotland are affected by dampness or condensation (or both)

  • 619,000 households are in fuel poverty in Scotland

  • 53,000 households are overcrowded in Scotland. This represents 2% of all households in Scotland

Source: Scottish House Conditions Survey - Key Findings 2018


For a fuller analysis looking at the national homelessness statistics, you can view our report: Getting Behind the Statistics: Update for 2018-19.

If you require further information, or have any questions/feedback, please contact: alice_tooms-moore@shelter.org.uk