A KEY housing charity has called for a dedicated housing minister as the number of affordable homes approvals slumped amidst a housing "emergency".

Concerns have been raised that the number of affordable homes approved for build has slumped to the lowest level for eight years.

It comes as Scotland's housing regulator warned of an "emerging risk of systematic failure" in local authority homelessness services as some councils are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the challenges of providing services for those who are homeless and meet their statutory duties.

There were 28,944 open homelessness cases in September, 2022 - the highest since Scottish Government records began in 2002. The figures were an 11% rise on the previous year.

Some 6,554 homes were given the nod for grant funding in 2022 as part of the Affordable Housing Supply Programme - almost half the 12,478 that were given the non in 2018, before the pandemic.

It is 35% down on the pandemic year of 2020 and 22% down on last year when 8414 were approved.

Starts on the programme are also at their lowest level since 2016, with 7502 affordable homes started in 2022 - 24% down on last year.

The Herald:

Protestors protested in October that there will be “body bags” on the streets if the soup kitchen they run can’t be provided with a suitable warm building to move the kitchen indoors this winter

Now Shelter Scotland has said that the new First Minister should appoint a cabinet-level minister to directly deal with the housing issues Scotland faces. Currently there is a cabinet secretary post whose portfolio is shared between social justice, housing and local government.

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The Scottish Government met a target of building 50,000 affordable homes in March, last year - but it was a year later than expected.

The original timescale of delivery by March 2021 was affected by “significant challenges” presented by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

In September, 2021, the then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in here Programme for Government pledged investment of almost £3.5bn in the parliamentary term to progress a "commitment" to an additional 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland. She said that at least 70% of those would be for social rent and that the investment will support up to 15,000 jobs.

She said they would be building on the investment in housing over the last parliament, to "further improve the availability of good quality, affordable, energy-efficient homes".

The Herald:

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson (above), said: “The new First Minister has taken office at a time when Scotland is in the grip of a housing emergency, with record numbers of children with nowhere permanent to call home and local homelessness services struggling to cope thanks to chronic underfunding.

“He will know that delivering more social homes is the only way to get those children out of temporary accommodation and reduce demand for affordable housing, so the record numbers of new social homes completed last year is something to be welcomed.

“However, these figures also present a stark warning. That momentum simply cannot be maintained if the number of new social housing projects being approved and starting continues to decline. “The Scottish Government is just about on pace to meet the target of 38,500 social homes this parliament, but if recent funding cuts and this downward trend in delivering new homes isn’t reversed it will fall well short.

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“That’s why Shelter Scotland is calling on Humza Yousaf to ensure housing issues have a clear voice at the cabinet table, by appointing a cabinet-level minister with a remit focused entirely on housing.”

It comes as cases of Scots councils failing to meet their legal duty to accommodate Scotland's homeless have soared by 20% in a year.

The Herald:

Councils have a statutory obligation to offer temporary accommodation when they assess a person or household as unintentionally homeless. Most councils meet this obligation all of the time.

But in 2021/22 there were 725 instances where there was failure to provide temporary accommodation, of which Edinburgh accounted for 695.

In 2020/21 there was a failure to accommodate in 595 cases.

The number of applications received by councils during 2021/22 from households looking for help with homelessness rose by 4% on the previous year to 35,230.

And in 2022 there were 4,345 households with children in temporary accommodation, a rise of 20% over two years.

Aditi Jehangir, secretary for the housing campaigners Living Rent said cuts in the number of social homes being built year on year was "exacerbating our housing crisis".

She said: "Good quality, affordable housing is vital in providing tenants with safety and security and helps ensure tenants are able to afford to eat and heat their homes.

With the number of homes approved consistently decreasing, this is jeopardising the commitment to build 110,000 affordable homes.

"In the middle of a cost of living crisis, where children are going hungry to school and over 9,000 Scottish children are homeless, the Scottish government needs to recognise the importance of social housing and commit to increasing the amount of social homes approved.

"The government also needs to make building more social housing a priority."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has led the way in the delivery of affordable housing across the UK with 118,124 affordable homes delivered since 2007, with 83,291 of these for social rent.

“We are aware of the global issues affecting construction which are impacting housing delivery so are working closely with the construction industry and housing partners to mitigate this where possible. We continue to collaborate with all our partners to achieve our shared goal of delivering more affordable homes for Scotland.

"The 2023-24 affordable housing supply programme budget of £751.945m will also be supplemented through other funding streams, including £15 million from our Heat in Buildings Fund and donations from our Charitable Bond Programme directing investment towards more social rented homes.

“We are committed to delivering on our target of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, with at least 70% of these available for social rent, and are making available £3.5 billion this parliament to support the delivery of social and affordable housing across Scotland.”