SCOTLAND'S housing system is creaking.
With thousands languishing for months or even years on waiting lists for council homes, demand for social housing is already exceeding supply.
It is feared there will be more pressure on the sector as welfare cuts and the economic crisis leave more households struggling to pay their rent or mortgage. While local authorities are making progress towards a groundbreaking pledge to provide every unintentionally homeless person with a home by 2012, questions remain over whether there is an adequate supply of housing to fulfil that promise.
The obvious answer would be to provide funds to councils and housing associations to build more homes – but that is not so easy at a time when public expenditure is being squeezed. The commitment by the Scottish Government to invest in 30,000 affordable homes – including 20,000 socially rented homes – over the course of five years has to be recognised. However more has to be done, with housing charities warning that at least 50,000 homes for social rent are required.
Other measures which can make a difference include continuing to encourage the owners of the 23,000 long-term empty properties scattered across Scotland to bring them back into use. With mortgages now hard to secure, shared equity schemes are a welcome help. Restrictions being placed on right-to-buy for council tenants should result in less of the social-housing stock being sold on.
With demand for homes predicted to rise in years to come amid an increasing number of smaller households, it is an issue which cannot be ignored. Living in a decent, affordable home should not be an impossible aspiration.
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