Tackling Scotland's housing shortages will help end scourge of homelessness and tackle labour shortages – Scotsman comment

Far too many people in Scotland are in need of a place to call home

It is surely a fundamental requirement of any society which wishes to be regarded as a good one that every member must have a place to call “home”. However, according to a report by Solace, which represents senior council officials, Scotland is far from being such a place.

It found there were more than 240,000 people on waiting lists for social housing, while the number of these properties allocated each year was only about 26,000. “In the current context, put simply, Scotland is not in a position to provide a home to all citizens that need one and we are therefore dishearteningly out of reach of implementing the human right to adequate housing,” it added.

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Some fairly drastic measures were suggested, such as stopping the sponsorship scheme for Ukrainian refugees, along with some bureaucratic ones, like increasing how long councils are allowed to house people in ‘temporary’ accommodation for.

One reason often cited by those opposed to immigration is that the extra numbers of people put pressure on the housing market. However, as Scotsman columnist and Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser recently pointed out, the UK, and particularly Scotland, needs more workers.

“The UK... is currently suffering from labour shortages, many of them caused by the level of retirals from the jobs market during the Covid pandemic,” he wrote. “Every time I meet representatives of Scottish business, the question of labour shortages is a key concern.” Fraser is right, and rather than reducing immigration, we should be building more homes – expanding, instead of contracting.

The Solace report noted the Scottish Government’s rent cap and changes to taxation had prompted some landlords to leave properties empty, an unintended consequence of a well-meaning policy that has worsened the housing crisis. This claim has been made by property owners before, but is harder to ignore from council officials.

To end the scourge of homelessness, a cause with cross-party support, the Scottish Government needs to take a pragmatic approach in which landlords and housebuilders are seen as partners in what is a truly great endeavour. Policies should be ambitious but they must also be grounded in market reality, not politicians' imaginations.



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