The supply of social housing in Scotland is facing "unsustainable pressures" amid a "critical lack of capacity", according to a new report.

Research by Solace, which represents council chief executives and senior managers, reveals that there are currently 243,603 people on the waiting list for social housing in Scotland but the number of annual allocations across the entire country is just 26,102.

The report warns that people who need affordable accommodation are being “failed” by a “housing emergency”.

The Herald: Average rents in private rental sector in Scotland as of January-March 2023, with changes over time and time-to-let averagesAverage rents in private rental sector in Scotland as of January-March 2023, with changes over time and time-to-let averages (Image: Solace)

Cleland Sneddon, chair of Solace Scotland, said: “The report sets out the unsustainable pressure on local authority housing, the challenges and barriers that are limiting the supply of new homes and social rent tenancies, and recommends action needed to implement change at pace and scale.

“The social sector needs to grow by at least 125,000 homes just to meet current demand. However, since 2022 just 18,583 affordable homes have been delivered and the supply of affordable housing has fallen 20% in three years.

“This is the first holistic assessment of need that looks at this key strategic issue over the short, medium and longer term.

"Our conclusion is that it is clear that a fundamental review of homelessness services and social housing provision in Scotland is required. A minimum 10-year plan is needed for whole system transformation."

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The report, ‘Housing in Scotland: Current Context and Preparing for the Future’, is the product of research undertaken by Solace in collaboration with Cosla - the local authority umbrella organisation - and ALACHO, which represents chief housing officers.

It notes that homeless presentations are "at an all-time a result of the impact from Covid-19 and cost of living crisis", with 28,944 open applications as of the end of September 2022.

The Herald:

Nine of Scotland's 32 local authorities were unable to meet their statutory obligation to provide suitable temporary accommodation.

The report added: "The risk of more and more local authorities not being able to meet their statutory homelessness duties is becoming a reality and there is little or no means to reverse this position."

By head of population, applications are highest in Clackmannanshire, West Dunbartonshire and Glasgow

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In total - combining the 243,603 people currently on the wait list for housing, those currently in temporary accommodation (14,000 households including over 9,000 children), and Ukrainians seeking safety in Scotland who are in temporary and short-term accommodation (12,000) - councils are faced with a duty to house at least 269,600 people.

The Herald: The Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis have been blamed for a rise in homeless applicationsThe Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis have been blamed for a rise in homeless applications (Image: Solace)

The report adds: “Local authority housing and homelessness services are experiencing unsustainable pressure reflecting the critical lack of capacity in local housing systems in Scotland.

"Some local authorities are unable to meet their statutory duties, resulting in households in housing need being failed by the system set up to support them.

“The housing reality in Scotland is that there are simply not enough social and affordable homes available and local authorities currently have inadequate means to reverse the position.

“We have a housing emergency, what we need now is an emergency response that acknowledges the urgency required and that makes a genuine difference to our collective ability to respond to the unprecedented challenges.”

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In 2020, ALACHO estimated that as many as 500,000 Scottish households may be living in homes that failed to meet their human rights on two or more counts.

In the immediate term, the report calls for a temporary pause on new duties that extend the definition of homelessness and risk compounding the pressures already faced by local authorities.

It also calls for a pause in changes which would allow referrals for housing to areas where applicants have no local connection.

The Herald:

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Despite global issues such as rising costs of construction supplies and workforce issues, the number of affordable homes completed in Scotland in the year to end March 2023 is the highest annual figure since 2000.

“Our long-term strategy, Housing to 2040 sets out a vision for housing in Scotland and a route map to get there.

"It aims to deliver – through partnership working with Cosla and local authorities, consistent with the Verity House Agreement – our shared ambition for everyone to have a safe, good quality and affordable home that meets their needs in the place they want to be.

“We welcome the contribution of the Housing in Scotland report, which will now be considered fully by the Scottish Government, Cosla, Solace and ALACHO through the established short-life Housing Review Group.”