Graeme Brown: Housing top of agenda

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The chronic shortage of affordable housing continues to blight the health and wellbeing and damage the prospects of many in our society.

So finding ways of increasing the supply of homes is going to be crucial in 2014 and beyond. We will continue to press the Scottish Government to fund and build a minimum of 10,000 new social homes a year to address that shortage and put an end to Scotland’s housing crisis for good.

The private rented sector is now home to growing numbers of households due to the lack of social housing, but the culture of short-term tenancy agreements means it is not suited to the many families who now rely on it. That’s why we will continue our campaign for reform of the sector and for the Scottish Government to Rethink Renting. We feel it’s high time that private tenants in Scotland have the security of tenure they need to put down long-term, secure foundations.

I am concerned that 2014 could see a new housing bubble, especially if prices keep rising and demand continues to outstrip supply. A new housing bubble is in no-one’s best interest, so we will be very vocal in our criticism of anything that has the potential to inflate that bubble.

In 2013, the number of homeless people in Scotland decreased – which is good news – but the level is still far too high with nearly 40,000 homeless applications last year. We are now one year on from meeting the landmark 2012 commitment on homelessness, which gave every unintentionally homeless person the right to settled accommodation. To ensure further progress, a new ten-year action plan is needed to help Scotland maintain focus and deliver the ongoing commitment. Shelter Scotland will help create that action plan and work in partnership to build a homelessness service that has people at its heart.

We expect 2014 to be extremely challenging as a result of ongoing welfare reforms and there is no doubt families and individuals will need extra support and advice. We’ll be there to help them – either via our free national helpline on 0808 800 4444 or online advice at shelterscotland.org

Graeme Brown is director of Shelter Scotland