Fife Council has officially become the fourth in Scotland to declare a housing emergency, due to "relentless" pressure on services.

As previously reported by The Herald, a motion was put before councillors on Thursday, with Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh and Glasgow having all previously declared a housing emergency.

That motion was passed by representatives, making the declaration formal.

Councillor Judy Hamilton said: "We have worked very hard in recent months, to avert this emergency, making sure tenants are in the right house for them and reviewing processes to turn houses around quickly so they don't lie empty between tenancies.

"Despite this, Fife did not receive any of the £2m revenue funding for temporary accommodation announced by the Scottish Government prior to December 2023.

"We have written to the UK Government ahead of their budget; we have written to the Scottish Government, and I have met with the Housing Minister to highlight that we are in a difficult situation in Fife, and call upon them for assistance.

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"Despite giving ourselves the best chance, we now have no choice but to declare that we are in housing emergency. The pressure on our services is relentless.

"Despite the fact that we have increased rents in Fife by 5% this year, Fife like other local authorities across Scotland, is now facing difficulties in meeting its statutory duties regarding homelessness.

“We are now officially therefore declaring a Housing Emergency. We will now work with partners to bring forward a Housing Emergency Action Plan to the Cabinet Committee in June, supplementing and accelerating actions already agreed.

"We're committed to helping anyone who finds themselves without a home, for any reason. If you find yourself in this situation, please talk to us."

In the most recent Scottish Government budget, the money for building social housing was cut by £196m - equivalent to 26%.

The government has set a target of building 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.

Sally Thomas, Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), said: “Amid a backdrop of increasing homelessness, a severe shortage of social homes, and repeated Scottish Government budget cuts, it is clear that all of Scotland faces a housing emergency. 

The Herald:

“It’s unlikely that Fife will be the final local authority to make this declaration, and until the Scottish Government commits to sufficient funding for the affordable, secure, rented homes Scotland needs, then its long-term strategy for housing will continue to unravel. 

“During the Scottish Government’s Budget process, the Deputy First Minister repeatedly said any additional funds that became available would go to affordable rented housing. Now that Scotland is to receive around £295 million of consequential funding from the UK Government Spring Budget, we are calling on Shona Robison to keep her word.  

"With almost quarter-of-a-million people on a waiting list for an affordable rented home and the highest number of homeless cases on record, inaction is simply not an option.” 

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “The Scottish Government has led the UK in housing by delivering more than 126,000 affordable homes since 2007, over 89,000 of which were for social rent, including almost 24,000 council homes. We will invest £752 million in affordable housing in 2023/24, the majority of which will be for social rent, including £34.6 million for the Fife Council area.

"I regularly engage with Fife Council to find solutions to the housing pressures they are facing, including making sure they work with the Empty Homes Partnership to bring more empty properties back into use to increase housing stock.

“The UK Government failed to inflation-proof their capital budget, and this has resulted in nearly a 10% real terms cut in our UK capital funding between 2023-24 and 2027-28.

"Likewise our Financial Transactions budget – key to delivering affordable housing – has been cut by 62%. This is on top of the disastrous impact Brexit has had on construction supply chain issues, labour shortages and the inflationary pressures driven by UK Government financial mismanagement.

“We remain focused on delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 and to support that we will bring forward the review scheduled for 2026-27 to 2024, which will concentrate on deliverability. We are working with the financial community in Scotland, and elsewhere, to boost private sector investment and help deliver more homes.”