Private renters and young ‘worst hit’ by housing crisis

Young people and renters are the worst hit by the housing crisis. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Young people and renters are the worst hit by the housing crisis. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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Edinburgh is now in the grip of a housing “crisis” with private renters and the young disproportionately affected, according to charity Shelter Scotland.

Shelter issued a nationwide warning about the “terrible shortage” of affordable homes which has combined with welfare reforms and stagnant wages to pushing more people to the brink of homelessness.

Across the country, the charity said it had helped more than 21,000 people in the past year and 15 per cent of that number or 3,141 were in the Capital where rents are soaring.

The report led to calls for a national housebuilding strategy to provide more homes for those struggling to get on the property ladder.

Shelter said the top issues facing those in need were the struggle to afford housing costs, housing conditions and issues with landlords.

Almost half (46 per cent) of people needing help were private renters, despite the sector making up only 14 per cent of homes in Scotland.

Young people aged between 16 and 34 also made up almost half (46 per cent) of those who sought advice.

A similar percentage (44 per cent) needed help keeping their home, while 29 per cent of people who approached the charity wanted assistance to find a home, including advice on homelessness.

More than 1,000 people who were already homeless came to the charity for help.

Deputy director Alison Watson said: “This report shows the disproportionate impact of Scotland’s housing crisis on young people and private renters who are both over-represented in the number of people we helped.

“The terrible shortage of truly affordable homes, harsh welfare reforms, stagnant wages and the high cost of keeping a roof over their head are the main reasons driving people to ask for help.

“Struggling to afford or pay housing costs is the biggest presenting problem people have when coming to us for help.”

She added: “The statistics speak for themselves – on average, a household in Scotland becomes homeless every 19 minutes. We are seeing more reports of rough sleepers dying on our city streets.

“Unknown numbers are sofa surfing with friends and families as they don’t have, or cannot afford, a home of their own. Our teams were contacted by more than 1,000 households who were already homeless.

“Behind those statistics are people, families, individuals – people on low incomes, people with complex needs, people
in crisis – some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Earlier this year, Edinburgh was identified as the most expensive place to rent in Scotland, with figures suggesting costs are set to soar by 20 per cent in the next five years.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “This Government is working hard to protect the most vulnerable in society from the impact of the UK Government’s harsh austerity cuts.

“We have delivered 60,000 affordable homes in our time in office, reintroduced council housing, ended right to buy, and are supporting people into home ownership. In addition, we are building at a rate faster than anywhere else in the UK.”