The professional standards charity the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) in Scotland says that Scotland's housing system "needs political action, not words", as it warned that a multi-billion pound investment is required in affordable homes to end the housing and homelessness emergency.

They say it would not be enough to simply reverse real term cuts of £573 million to the Scottish Government's affordable homes budget over the past three years, even though there has been no indication of this happening.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government remains significantly behind in its target to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.

Callum Chomczuk, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) national director for Scotland, explains what needs to be done.

Scotland is in the grip of a housing emergency. This manifests differently across Scotland, whether that’s Edinburgh’s average private rent hitting £1,480 per month, or the fact that one in five homes on the Isle of Skye is a short term let.

Communities across Scotland are feeling the impact of the undersupply of affordable homes with people struggling to cover the bills and others trapped in an under-resourced homelessness system.

The pressure on homelessness services is now causing some local authorities to fail in their legal duties to homeless households either by providing unsuitable temporary accommodation or in some cases no accommodation at all. This is not acceptable, but it is not the fault of individual local authorities, it is a manifestation of wider systemic failure and the underfunding of services.

Inflation, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages, and Brexit have all contributed to challenges in delivering the affordable homes we need. Local authorities are now reporting costs of up to £300,000 to deliver a single home, up from an average of less than £200,000 less than three years ago. This means fewer homes can be delivered with the funding provided by the Scottish Government.


Latest figures show new home completions down on the previous year.

Recent research by the trade body for the development sector, Homes for Scotland, estimates that 28% of households in Scotland have some form of housing need, this is equal to 693,000 households. While some need may be addressed by repairs or upgrades, the research suggests a need of 330,000 affordable homes and an additional 220,000 market homes.

These statistics do not lie. The signs of the escalating housing emergency have been clear for some time and the housing sector has been increasing our calls for intervention. In June last year, the first local authority in Scotland, Argyll and Bute, declared a housing emergency in their area. They have since been followed by eight more.

The Scottish Housing Regulator, the body that monitors the performance of Scotland’s social landlords, warned in January that some local authorities were already in systemic failure and more were at risk.

However, these calls for help were met by a devastating £196 million cut to the affordable housing supply budget for 2024/25. The Scottish Government then announced an additional £80 million funding for homes over two years, but this does little to reverse the initial cut or address the inflationary pressures now built into new housing delivery.

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CIH (Chartered Institute of Housing) Scotland declared a housing emergency in March this year, calling on the Scottish Government to act and develop an emergency response. While we welcome the Scottish Government’s declaration, in May, of a national housing emergency we are still waiting for an emergency action plan and emergency funding. We need a response that will help local authorities move out of a state of housing emergency.

Callum  Chomczuk (Image: CIH)

The Scottish Government has repeatedly cited the impact of UK government capital spending cuts as the cause of cuts to the housing sector. And we agree there is lot more the UK Government can do to improve the housing system in Scotland, including increasing public spending and increasing borrowing powers. However, it is the job of the Scottish Government to make tough decisions with the money they have and in cutting the housing supply budget we believe the wrong decision has been made.

Failing to invest in housing supply will worsen the current homelessness situation costing more in crisis intervention, expensive temporary accommodation, and poorer health.

The Scottish Government’s own research shows that people experiencing homelessness are much more likely to require NHS treatment. For example, homeless people are three and a half times more likely to attended accident and emergency departments than rest of the population and three time more likely to experience acute hospital admissions. So, we need to go beyond simply reversing the cuts.

The Scottish Government in a recent FOI (Freedom of information) request suggested an average cost of affordable homes construction of around £190,000. At a grant rate of 55% this would mean an increase of funding to £104,500 per home from the State. This is lower than the evidence from the housing sector but even at this rate it means that reversing the cut and providing an additional £196 million will lead to just 1,866 more affordable homes being built. That is not enough.

We need a multi-year, multi-billion commitment to building the affordable homes Scotland needs.

When talking about housing and properties with government funding and resourcing it is easy to be clinical and just think of bricks, mortar, and balance sheets. Or that the money is too much or the challenge is too great. But housing is the foundation we use to build our lives, to flourish as individuals and as a society. Everyone deserves a safe and secure home. In Scotland we have far too many people without a home.

We need the Scottish Government and all political parties to work together address the housing emergency, provide the long-term funding for building and make this THE political priority.

Callum Chomczuk is the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) national director for Scotland, leading the CIH Scotland team since 2018.He previously worked in consultancy as the head of public affairs for Pagoda PR after working in policy roles in the third sector and as a Scottish parliamentary researcher.