There is not a week that passes without fresh evidence of Scotland’s housing crisis. As we continue to see all the wrong records broken, be that the highest levels of homelessness on record, or the most households ever living in temporary accommodation, it comes as no surprise that Fife is the latest local authority to formally declare a housing emergency.

Amid unprecedented pressures on Fife’s housing services, councillors on Thursday backed a motion to declare the emergency, following similar declarations in Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.

Nor will Fife be the last council to make such a declaration: whilst each area in Scotland grapples with its own housing challenges, a common issue is that we simply do not have enough affordable rented homes. Often known as social homes, these are houses provided by housing associations – our members – and by councils.

This summer will mark eight years since Scotland abolished the right-to-buy policy which allowed social tenants to buy their properties at discounted rates. From its introduction in 1980 until its end in 2016, roughly half a million council and housing association homes were sold off. Many of those homes will now be rented out in the private rented sector, where tenants typically pay double the rent they would in social housing, but without the associated long-term security.


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But whilst some of the reasons for our housing crisis are historical, others are firmly at the door of today’s Scottish Government, which also shoulders the responsibility for charting a course out of the crisis. Despite the series of grim statistics and housing emergencies, last month the government slashed £196million from the affordable housing budget - an eye-watering 26% cut. This will have a devastating impact on tackling poverty and homelessness across Scotland because social homes are about more than just putting a roof over people’s heads.

Research indicates that 20,000 children a year are kept out of poverty because they live in social homes, which is why SFHA wrote to the First Minister before the Scottish Budget asking him to build more social homes to meet his ‘defining mission’ of tackling poverty.

Thousands of children are living in temporary accommodation, often unsure where they will be staying from one week to the next. The consequences this has on their physical and mental health, education, and future employment prospects, means that we risk perpetuating the cycle of poverty for generations to come.

Not only is slashing the housing budget shamefully short-sighted in a country as rich as Scotland, but it makes no sense in economic terms: when we build homes it stimulates the economy. We can see this through increased employment opportunities for the people involved in the construction and maintenance of housing, and by creating thriving communities which in turn leads to greater footfall for small and local businesses. But, most importantly, we tackle the scourge of poverty and give all our children the opportunities they deserve to live a successful and happy life.

With Holyrood set to receive around £295 million in additional funds from the UK Spring Budget, the Scottish Government should now honour its commitment to prioritise funding the housing budget. Throughout the entire Scottish Budget process the Deputy First Minister has repeatedly said that the affordable housing programme would be the Scottish Government’s priority were any new funds made available.

I wholeheartedly believe that the housing crisis can be resolved. We have the knowledge, skills, and resources across Scotland to deliver the warm, affordable homes everyone should enjoy as a basic human right. We need the political will to make this happen.

Sally Thomas is Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations