SCOTLAND is missing its targets for providing affordable housing to buy and rent by 10,000, as the number of children in temporary accommodation has soared.

The First Minister gave a key pre-election pledge before the last Scottish Parliament ballot to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over five years, including 35,000 homes for social rent by 2021 as it sought to tackle a housing crisis.

But annual official data seen by the Herald shows that over the five years, to the end of December, the number of completed homes was at just over 40,000.

Meanwhile as of September, there were 7,900 children in temporary accommodation, 2149 more than in 2016 - a 37% rise over four years.

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To reach the affordable homes target, which it was hoped would bring hope to the homeless and those on waiting lists for homes, some 10,000 homes would have to have been built each year. At at no time over the past five years has that mark been hit with 7261 in 2016 and 7505 in 2017.  The highest number of completions was in the 2019 when there were 9501 homes built.

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Attempts to hit the target received a further blow in 2020, when the number of homes delivered dropped by nearly 3000 to 6,655 and has been blamed on the Covid-19 crisis which hit the construction industry.

Meanwhile despite homelessness prevention strategies, the number of homeless applications has not improved over the past four years - staying at around 17,000 in the six month period to September.

As at September 30, 2016 there were 10,570 households in temporary accommodation for those who are making a homeless application and are in need or urgent assistance. Four years later and that has soared by 33% to 14,151.

And the number of families with children in the same circumstances has also risen by over a quarter over the four year from 3174 to 4000.

Gordon MacRae, assistant director for communication and advocacy at Shelter Scotland said there was a worry that the housing crisis was something "that we tolerate... and that is not something we want to stand by and ignore".

He said: "Homelessness is on the rise, and we are still not building enough homes to reduce that.

"When we say it is not enough, it is not because there is an agenda there, it is just simply not meeting the evidence of need and demand. And when we stop using the technical language of need and demand, we are really talking about children in temporary accommodation, families overcrowded, young people sleeping on friend's sofas and rough sleeping."

Some 13,650 households lost their homes between April and September of last year despite an Covid-19 eviction ban being in place during that time.

Drivers of homelessness during April to September 2020 reflected increasing household pressure with 27% of applicants having been asked to leave accommodation - up from 24% the previous year. Another 23% had to leave because of a dispute or a relationship breakdown.

In October, 2015, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made an early election commitment to embark on the affordable homes programme if it were to win a third term.

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She said at the SNP’s conference in Aberdeen that housing will be “one of the biggest issues in the campaign”.

She told delegates: “Making sure that everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to our government’s drive to make this country fairer and more prosperous.

According to the Scottish Government, the affordable homes move was established to give everyone in Scotland access to good quality housing which it said was a "vital part" of their drive to secure "economic growth, promote social justice, strengthen communities and tackle inequality".

It would support approximately 14,000 full-time equivalent jobs a year in construction and related industries in Scotland, and generate around £1.8 billion of economic activity a year on average over the life of the five-year programme The target was set as ministers said it had a £3.5bn affordable homes commitment whhich it said was the "biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing across Scotland since devolution".

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In a March, 2020 update, the Scottish Government had insisted that Scotland was "leading the way in the delivery of affordable housing" and they were on track to meet the target.

Last week Nicola Sturgeon made another election pledge if the SNP is returned to power and set another target to deliver affordable homes.

"Over this parliament we will deliver 50,000 more affordable homes". Nicola Sturgeon at the 2017 SNP conference

This time Scotland was to build 100,000 more affordable homes in 10 years, with at least 70% of these being for social rent. The housebuilding promise was to be backed up with £3.4 billion of investment in the next parliamentary and it would create as many as 14,000 jobs a year.

The First Minister hailed the commitment – which includes the construction of 70,000 council and housing association properties – as a “down payment on Scotland’s economic recovery” from Covid-19.

She said the scheme will be a “huge investment in jobs, in homes and in better communities”.

Mr MacRae said the housing plans fall short of deliving enough falls short of delivering enough homes to reverse the trend where every year the number of people who need a social home grows at a faster rate than we can deliver new homes to house them. And he said that is what creates so much of the continued housing inequality in Scotland.

He said: "The Scottish Government has built the most social and affordable homes of any government since devolution, but it was never enough if the ambition is to tackle the housing crisis.

"Five years ago there was researched we jointly commissioned, that showed we need about 60,000 affordable homes to begin to cut the growth in demand. We are talking about helping people in the private rented sector who would like a social affordable home, people stuck in temporary accommodation, dealing with rough sleeping, and we are talking about stopping the spiralling number of children in temporary accommodation.

"When the Scottish Government then put a plan in place to build 50,000, the sector welcomed that even though we knew it was about managing the crisis and not ending it.

"We don't want to be churlish about the investment there is, but it falls short of addressing housing inequality, housing poverty and the growing number of children in temporary accommodation.

"Only social housing will bring down poverty levels. We know that because it is more secure, it is more affordable, builds better communities, it is cheaper to maintain and is greener.

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"Where it has fallen short is in delivery and delivering enough social housing means tackling the 8000 children in temporary accommodation. All the foundations that make a good childhood are denied those 8000."

Last year, before the pandemic, Shelter Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Housing, and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations commissioned researchers that showed that 53,000 affordable homes were the bare minimum needed over five years to tackle housing inequality, of which 37,100 should be for social rent.

The Scottish Government's new programme falls 3,000 affordable homes, including 2,100 social homes, short of that minimium requirement.

Mr MacRae said: "It matters because it represents 2,100 households told they will need to wait at least another five years before they can get themselves out of a damp home or an overcrowded one; out of a temporary home or a home with stairs when you have a child in a wheelchair; out of a cycle of sleeping on friends couches and off the streets for good. This number is not the abstract obsession of policy wonks, this number is the difference between finally beginning to end the housing crisis and simply managing the problem better."

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How the affordable housing plan was promoted

The Scottish Government has been accentuating the positives, pointing out that it is delivering affordable homes at a rate of 17 homes per 10,000 population. It says this is above the rate of 10.2 in England, 11.3 in Wales and 14.4 in Northern Ireland.

And Ms Sturgeon in promoting the affordable homes pledge said that since the SNP was elected to power in 2007, almost 100,000 affordable new homes have been built across Scotland.

She added that “ramping up” this work is central to the party’s plans for the coming 10 years.

“Housing has been a priority for the SNP Government since we were first elected – and if we are re-elected it will remain firmly at the top of the agenda," she said.

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The Scottish Tenants Organisation said that the "time has come to eliminate unsuitable temporary accommodation for all homeless people and instead move all homeless people into permanent social housing that is safe warm and secure".

Organisation spokesman Sean Clerkin added: "The next Scottish Government have got to take immediate action to end homelessness once and for all."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Prior to the coronavirus pandemic we were on track to deliver 50,000 homes within this parliamentary session and we are committed to completing that. We are working with partners across the housing sector to deliver the remaining homes as quickly and as safely as possible.