Austerity Hits Homeless Housing Goal

By Aitken, Keith | Public Finance, January/February 2013 | Go to article overview

Austerity Hits Homeless Housing Goal


Aitken, Keith, Public Finance


A cross -party I Iolyrood guarantee of homes for all Scotland's homeless people could be scuppered by the UK coalition government's austerity programme, housing charity Shelter Scotland has said.

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown told Public Finance that a combination of fiscal, economic and demographic factors could de-rail the internationally admired '2012 Commitment' that came into force at the start of 2013. Tie warned it might prove necessary to back it up with sanctions unless the supply of affordable housing increased.

'We wouldn't want to introduce the commitment and then see a huge rise in temporary accommodation, and we know of families that have been in temporary accommodation for two years, some of it of a very low standard,' he said.

The commitment enshrined an undertaking in legislation, with all-party support and local authority agreement, that councils would phase out the priority/non-priority distinction in assessing housing applications from homeless people. This extends the obligation to house all categories of unwillingly homeless people rather than prioritise those with dependent children, health needs or other vulnerabilities. The main beneficiaries are single homeless people.

Brown said Shelter welcomed the initiative: 'Local authorities have had to change not just the process, but also their working culture - the response a homeless person gets when they present themselves to a local authority - and that's important.' But he added: 'This was legislation from 2003. We were in a very different economic context then. There were 45,000 people assessed as homeless by local authorities in Scotland in 2011/12 - that gives us a sense of the scale of the challenge. …

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