SCOTLAND’S leading homelessness charity is to demand John Swinney reverses plans to cut affordable housing spending.

The draft Budget published by the Deputy First Minister and acting finance secretary in December stated that spending on “more homes” in 2023/24 would be £567.5 million compared to £748.1 million in 2021/22.

Now in a written submission to Holyrood’s local government and housing committee ahead of a meeting on Tuesday the organisation has urged the Scottish Government not to proceed.

Shelter’s demand comes as ministers prepare for wider reforms including plans for rent controls in the private rental sector.

“To provide effective, long-term solutions to Scotland’s housing emergency, we are...calling on the Scottish Government to reverse its planned cuts to the housing capital budget to ensure 38,500 social homes are delivered by 2026 to reduce housing need,” said the submission by Shelter.

The document said ministers should prioritise funding in the affordable housing supply programme to “delivering homes for social rent and introduce a national acquisition programme”. 

MSPs on the local government and housing committee are taking evidence  on the Scottish Government’s Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act.

The emergency legislation, which was passed in October last year, banned evictions and capped rent increases at 0 per cent - effectively a freeze on increases to the end of March.

Last week, ministers announced plans for the rent cap to be extended until the end of September but would allow for one 3 per cent increase over a 12-month period. They can also an apply to increase rent by 6 per cent.
The new measures are subject to parliamentary approval and as with the rent freeze have been opposed by landlords who have said they will result in fewer properties for rent as owners sell up.

David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation, Gordon MacRae, Assistant Director, Shelter Scotland, Emma Saunders, National Organiser, Living Rent and Colin Stewart, Chair, North of Scotland Regional Network of Tenants and Residents will be among those giving evidence.

Tenant’s rights minister Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens, co-leader will be quizzed by the committee in a separate session on Tuesday.

Ahead of his committee appearance Mr Harvie wrote to the committee convener Ariane Burgess on Thursday about the new plans and revealed the Scottish Government’s housing bill to bring in wider reforms to the rented sector including rent controls - will be brought in to Holyrood shortly after the summer recess this year.

“The decision on whether to extend the measures is, of course, for the Parliament to make and I look forward to going through the due process on that in the coming weeks,” he said.

“Finally, the important issue of future reform of the rented sector was rightly raised during my statement to Parliament last week. Programme for Government in September 2022 set out our intention to bring forward a new Housing Bill in 2023 and the exact timings of that would be kept under review, in light of our emergency work to support tenants through the costs crisis. 

“Having reviewed that work and recognising the extension of our emergency legislation, I can confirm today we intend to introduce that Housing Bill – which will include long-term rent control measures - as soon as possible after the 2023 summer recess. I look forward to discussing all of this in more detail with the Committee at the evidence session planned for next week.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs: “Scotland is in the grip of a housing crisis on the SNP-Green’s watch, yet they are planning more devastating cuts to the housing budget. 

“Shelter are absolutely right to call for these cuts to be reversed. The SNP have failed miserably in meeting their housebuilding targets in recent years.”

Scottish Labour Housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said “These brutal cuts will do untold damage to Scotland’s affordable housing scheme. This decision is unthinkable a time when Scottish housing is at crisis point. 

“The SNP need to rethink this decision and set out a real plan to deliver the affordable housing Scotland so badly needs.”

A Scottish Government spokesman disputed Shelter’s analysis that the Budget meant a £113m  cut from the affordable housing budget.

He said: “There has not been such a cut. Our £752 million 2023-24 budget will also be supplemented by contributions from the Heat in Buildings Fund and our Charitable Bond Programme donations that will be directed towards investment in social rented homes.

“We remain committed to making more than £3.5 billion available for affordable housing over the current parliamentary session as part of our ambitious plans to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.“