At last, SNP declare a housing emergency - Miles Briggs

Scottish Government  housing minister Paul McLennanScottish Government  housing minister Paul McLennan
Scottish Government housing minister Paul McLennan
Last week the SNP Scottish Government finally declared a national housing emergency, after five Scottish councils, including Edinburgh declared local housing emergencies.

II have long called on the SNP Government to act to help address the housing emergency facing the Capital, and while I welcome the fact Ministers have finally woken up, it is disappointing that it has taken this long as they have desperately sought to deflect the blame for yet another of their failures.

It is worth reflecting that housing policy in Scotland has been fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament for 25 years – 17 of which the SNP has presided over as the largest party.

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In Government the SNP have made annual cuts to the affordable housing budgets under their leadership, including under their ill-fated partnership with the Greens. They have failed to mention the Scottish Government’s failing national planning framework which has led to the disappearance of land supply. There has been nobody in the Scottish Government who has raised their hand to say that cuts to local government budgets could have contributed to this problem.

We might recall the widespread warnings around the rent control policy that was touted by the SNP, Greens and Labour, with industry leaders warning of soaring rents and landlords withdrawing properties from the market. What happened there?

The Scottish Government foolishly implemented it anyway with the predictable results, joined by housing associations scaling back their property investment portfolios and the complete loss of mid-market rent.

Here in Lothian, the City of Edinburgh Council now sees some of the highest homeless rates in the country and record number of children living temporary accommodation, the Capital has lost out on roughly £9.3 million in homelessness prevention under this government.

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The declaration of a housing emergency is a welcome one, but it will only matter if success is clearly defined and if action targeted at the roots causes is taken swiftly by the Scottish Government.

If the government truly wants its legacy on housing to be a good one, it must reach out to charities and across the political divide to get fresh ideas. Because as of now, its legacy is one where 40,000 disabled people on waiting lists for housing associations and council homes. It is one of abject failure.

The situation in the Capital and across Scotland is a mess, with a shortage of social housing, a rising private rent and mortgages becoming more expensive.

There is a failure to deliver the social homes desperately needed in Scotland and there has been a significant slowdown in new social developments in the past year.

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The housing emergency we face is causing serious damage to the health, wellbeing and education of our fellow Scots, as well as to the wider economy. More unacceptable still, it is leaving thousands without somewhere to call home.

The director of the housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland summed it up when she said “The Scottish Government’s strategies for housing and homelessness are failing and any attempt to say otherwise is starting to feel like an attempt to gaslight the Scottish public.”

I agree. What is now needed is accountability, fresh leadership to tackle the housing emergency and the implementation of an urgent outcomes focused housing emergency plan. We need cross-party talks and an urgent statement on the national housing emergency. More than anything, we need action.

Miles Briggs is Conservative MSP for Lothian

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