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Shelter Scotland says 44% of its clients need help to keep homes

Words: Laura Edgar
Social housing / iStock_000074406885

A report by Shelter Scotland has revealed the extent of the housing crisis in Scotland, with 44 per cent of those contacting the charity needing help to keep their home.

According to Impact Report 2016/17, more than 21,000 people have contacted Shelter Scotland through its free national helpline, digital chat service and had one-to-one advice sessions from March 2016 to April 2017.

Around 46 per cent of those needing help were private renters. This number, said Shelter Scotland, is disproportionate to the size of the private rented sector, which provides 14 per cent of homes in Scotland.

“The statistics speak for themselves – on average, a household in Scotland becomes homeless every 19 minutes” – Alison Watson

Out of those helped, 46 per cent were between 16 and 34 years old while 44 per cent said they needed help to keep their home. Issues cited by callers needing help include struggling with housing costs or that they were facing eviction.

Of those contacting Shelter Scotland, 29 per cent wanted advice and assistance with finding a home and homelessness, while 24 per cent were seeking to improve their home, including having issues with the landlord or housing conditions.

More than 1,000 people contacted the charity because they were already homeless.

Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Last year we were busier than ever helping people with bad housing and homelessness. This report shows the disproportionate impact of Scotland’s housing crisis on young people and private renters who are both over-represented in the number of people we helped.

“The terrible shortage of truly affordable homes, harsh welfare reforms, stagnant wages and the high cost of keeping a roof over their head are the main reasons driving people to ask for help.

“Struggling to afford or pay housing costs is the biggest presenting problem people have when coming to us for help.”

Kate Houghton, policy and practice officer at RTPI Scotland, said: “Provision of a diverse range of affordable and decent housing is a crucial part of placemaking, and RTPI Scotland therefore acknowledges the challenge for planners expressed so clearly in Shelter’s latest Impact Report.

“We know that we need to plan for a more diverse range of housing to suit all needs, and the ongoing planning review is a critical opportunity to make it easier for planners to do this. Particularly crucial will be bridging the gap between plans and delivery – ensuring that councils have the tools to see new homes built in the most sustainable locations, well connected to jobs, schools, shops and community facilities.”

Sarah Boyack, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations’ head of public affairs, said that although the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase the affordable housing target to 50,000 homes is welcome, a sustained long-term approach that goes beyond the lifetime of the current parliament is needed.

“The report also shows that welfare reform is one of the main reasons that people have turned to the charity for help. Unfortunately, this is not surprising when welfare policies, such as universal credit, can see new claimants waiting up to six weeks until they receive payment. The SFHA has repeatedly called for the roll-out of universal credit to be halted until it can be shown to be working safely and will continue to lobby the UK Government on this and other welfare reforms which are negatively affecting our members and their tenants.”

Impact Report can be found on the Shelter Scotland website.

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