The Scottish Government’s “brutal” cut of almost £200m from the affordable housing budget is “the wrong choice” and must be reversed, a leading anti-poverty charity has said.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said slicing a quarter off the fund to build affordable homes was “baffling” in light of Scotland’s housing crisis.

The cut, slipped out in the Scottish budget for 2024/25 last month, may well worsen poverty and undo other government efforts to tackle it, the JRF said.

The warnings are contained in a submission on the budget due to be discussed by MSPs on Holyrood’s finance and public administration committee today.

It coincides with the SNP at Westminster today attacking UK ministers for the impact of their economic policies on social housing north of the border.

Glasgow East MP David Linden will blame the cost of living crisis for tenant hardship while boasting the SNP are “leading the way in the UK on building affordable housing”.

However in their submission to the finance committee, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation laid blame directly at the door of SNP finance secretary Shona Robison.

Her draft budget cuts the Affordable Housing Supply Programme by over 30% in real terms next year and the Housing Support and Homeless budget by 5%.

In the JRF’s submission, Associate Director for Scotland Chris Birt said previous Scottish Government efforts to boost affordable social housing had helped reduce poverty levels.

However “cracks” were now showing in the system, with Glasgow, Edinburgh and Argyll & Bute councils last year declaring housing emergencies because of a lack of housing supply and record levels of people in temporary accommodation.

The latest official figures also show a 30% drop in the completion of homes for social rent, partly as a result of high inflation affecting construction costs.

“In this context it is therefore baffling that the affordable housing supply programme should be the victim of such a brutal cut as the one announced in the 2024/25 draft Budget,” Mr Birt wrote.

“To slice a quarter from the budget in the face of both the immediate and longer term issues facing the housing sector in Scotland is surely something that will have to be reversed during the Parliament’s scrutiny of the budget. 

“If this is a ‘hard choice’ as part of the budget it is the wrong choice.”

He warned the Government's flagship Scottish Child Payment benefit would be “undermined if households with children’s rents go up” because of housing shortages.

In addition, good quality, energy efficient housing kept bills down, prevented ill health related to damp and mould, and opened up access to services and work.

He concluded: “In our view, this cut must be reversed while the Scottish Government redoubles efforts to work with the wider sector to take on the immediate emergency and put the Affordable Housing Supply Programme back on a sustainable path to meeting its longer term objectives.”

The SNP-Green administration has promised 110,000 affordable homes will be delivered across the country by 2032, with at least 70% in the social rented sector.

However the Herald revealed on Sunday that the sector has built an average of 4,700 units a year in the last decade, meaning 7,700 new homes per year are needed to hit that target. 

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations says 110,000 is now “an impossible dream”, and ministers now plan to review the target later this year.

SNP Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “Scotland is facing the most challenging budget settlement since devolution because of sustained high inflation and a UK Government autumn statement that failed to deliver the investment needed in Scotland's public services.

“We will invest £556m in affordable housing next year and continue to work with partners to increase the delivery of more affordable homes, the majority of which will be for social rent.

“The UK Government did not inflation-proof its capital budget which has resulted in a 9.8% real terms cut in our capital funding between 2023/24 and 2027/28.   

“We will bring forward to 2024 a review of our target to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 with a focus on the delivery timeline.”