Page last updated at 08:18 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 09:18 UK

Social housing hits 50-year low

Edinburgh housing estate
Shelter said more affordable housing was needed to meet rising demand

The number of council and housing association homes for rent is at its lowest for 50 years, according to Shelter Scotland.

The charity has warned of a "growing chasm between the number of homes needed and the number available".

The Building Pressure report said there were 142,000 households on the waiting list for council homes.

The housing and homelessness charity said the right to buy scheme was partly to blame for the shortage.

Its report said the number of social homes for rent last year was at its lowest level since 1959.

The figure had dropped to 599,000 in 2008, which represented an 18% fall since 1998.

The report said that 135,000 homes had been sold through right to buy over the previous decade.

It's a crisis that's built up over time and can only be solved by building more homes
Graeme Brown
Shelter Scotland

In 2001, there were 3.9 people on council waiting lists for every let.

By 2008, this had risen to 6.6 people. The charity said that on current rates it would take almost seven years to find a house for everyone already on housing waiting lists.

The number of people in temporary accommodation had increased by 135% between 2001 and 2008.

In real terms, Shelter Scotland said this meant at least 17,000 people, including 7,000 children, were in temporary housing - enough to fill Tynecastle Stadium in Edinburgh.

The report marks the start of a campaign by the charity to secure a commitment from the Scottish Government to build 30,000 affordable rented homes by 2012. This is the date set by the government for ensuring all homeless people have the right to permanent accommodation.

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: "The Building Pressure report lays bare the chasm between the number of homes needed and the number available to house Scotland's people.

Drawing of a dream home by Shelter staff
The report marks the start of a Shelter campaign

"People are losing their jobs and their homes, piling pressure on a system already at breaking point. It's a crisis that's built up over time and can only be solved by building more homes."

Mr Brown added: "The Scottish Government's medicine of bringing forward cash from next year's budget is welcome but the doses of cash for housing overall are inadequate. Last year's budget fell short of Shelter Scotland and other housing experts' projection of what we need to end the housing crisis.

"We cannot afford to make the same mistake in 2009. Scotland's people, its reputation and its recovery depend on tough funding decisions and decisive action."

In response to the Shelter Scotland report, Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil, said: "This government agrees with Shelter that right to buy has been a disaster for the provision of low cost social housing for rent."

The government said reforms proposed in the draft Housing Scotland Bill would end the right to buy for new social housing tenants.

Industry response

Mr Neil said: "Between 1980 and 2005 nearly 450,000 homes for social rent were sold at a discount as a result of right to buy, without being replaced by new properties. That is a shameful statistic.

"Although we do not agree with their numbers, we do agree with Shelter that more affordable homes are required. Work will start this year on more than 1,300 new council homes in Scotland, backed by £26m from the Scottish Government."

However, Conservative housing spokesman Jamie McGrigor said it was "shameful" to blame right to buy for the current position.

The problems of affordable housing shortages will not be solved simply by an extra cash injection this year
Jacqui Watt
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

He said the lack of social housing was a direct result of bad planning by the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, which had not been addressed by the SNP.

"Right to buy was the most significant, socially liberating policy ever introduced by any government," he said.

"It has given thousands of Scots the opportunity to improve their standard of living and certainly does not affect the number of homes available."

Alan Ferguson, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, said: "The challenge is for us all to come together and begin to identify new ways to secure affordable housing to meet the needs of people in Scotland."

Jonathan Fair, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, said: "We have to find ways of attracting and encouraging private finance into the affordable housing sector by building for rent and low cost sale in the open market."

The chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Jacqui Watt, said: "As this Shelter report shows, the problems of affordable housing shortages will not be solved simply by an extra cash injection this year."



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