Poor housing in Scotland a health ‘time bomb’

Robert Black is calling for action to prevent a housing crisis. Picture: Robert PerryRobert Black is calling for action to prevent a housing crisis. Picture: Robert Perry
Robert Black is calling for action to prevent a housing crisis. Picture: Robert Perry
SCOTLAND is facing a “health and inequality time bomb” because of shortage of affordable housing, a former watchdog will say.

Robert Black, former auditor general for Scotland, due to speak at the annual Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Glasgow today, said investing in housing should be seen as a preventative measure to tackle Scotland’s growing crisis in health, education and employment.

He said such spending would lead to significant budget saving in areas such as social care and homelessness.

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A total of 43 per cent of Scotland’s social housing currently falls beneath the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, with approximately 73,000 households living in overcrowded conditions, representing 3 per cent of households in Scotland.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Black, chair of the Housing and Wellbeing Commission, an independent panel hosted by Shelter Scotland, said: “Our society faces major challenges in responding to the consequences of a chronic housing crisis now and in the future.

“We are in danger of losing sight of the importance housing plays in wellbeing. Poor housing can have a significant impact on health, education, employability and life chances.

“Today, a serious lack of affordable housing and poor quality housing continues to damage the health and life chances of thousands of families and individuals in Scotland. To avoid a health and inequality time bomb, Scotland must build more homes and improve the quality of existing stock. Only then can it ensure the wellbeing of its people.

“Investment in housing is investment in people and the future prosperity of Scotland.”

A spokesman for Shelter Scotland said the lack of investment in affordable housing meant more than one in ten households (around 13 per cent) in Scotland are affected by dampness or condensation or both. Around 940,000 households (39 per cent of all households) are in fuel poverty.

The charity also estimated that each incident of repeat homelessness costs upwards of £15,000.

Jim Hume, MSP for South Scotland and the Lib Dem health and housing spokesman, said: “Robert Black’s comments are a stark warning for the SNP, whose piecemeal offerings have failed to address Scotland’s housing crisis.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Housing is at the heart of this government’s ambitions to create a fairer and more prosperous country.

“The Scottish Government is committed to increasing the supply of housing across all tenures in Scotland. We plan to spend over £1.7 billion to deliver our target of 30,000 affordable homes over this Parliament.

“With almost 24,000 affordable homes delivered, we have already reached 80 per cent of this target.

“This comes despite continuing, challenging economic times and Westminster cuts to budgets. Proportionately we are building substantially more houses than in England and Wales.

“Working with local authorities, we are building record numbers of council houses, while we have abolished the Right to Buy which will protect up to 15,500 social homes from sale over the next ten years.”