Scotland's housing crisis: Horrific tales of damp, mould and racist landlords demand action – Foysol Choudhury
Home. For many of us, it’s a place of love, safety, security and comfort. But for an increasing number of households across Scotland, their home has become a source of discomfort and illness, overridden with damp, mould and urgent repairs, often ignored and exacerbated by unscrupulous landlords. Some, sadly, don’t have homes.
There is no doubt that Scotland is deep in a housing crisis and that urgent action is needed to change the tide in this sector before it’s too late. People across the country are living in life-endangering conditions, terrified that their families will suffer the same effects of dangerous mould and damp as happened in the tragic case of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died in England.
Others are stuck on seemingly endless waiting lists for both permanent and temporary accommodation and this problem is only growing. As of September 2022, 9,130 children were reported to be living in temporary accommodation, which is a 100 per cent increase from a decade ago. This is unacceptable, all children deserve a safe, healthy and stable home.
This homelessness crisis affects constituents from across many sectors of society. A recent National Union of Students report showed that a fifth of international students in Scotland had experienced homelessness during their studies. Many students, both from this country and overseas, experience similar problems with homelessness, poor conditions and a lack of legal protection. I have heard stories of racist landlords, sofa surfing and damp-infested homes.
Harrowingly, a recent special investigation by The Independent uncovered how Britain’s housing crisis hits Black and Asian tenants hardest. The shocking findings of this investigation have unfortunately been people’s lived realities for far too long. I’ve previously highlighted research from Heriot-Watt University which had similar conclusions to The Independent about racial inequality in housing outcomes, with this research highlighting the disproportionate impact homelessness has on Black and minority ethnic communities.
Clearly, this is a problem which is striking constituents across Scotland. This demonstrates that there is an overbearing crisis in the housing sector, with particular problems of rising numbers of homeless people, striking levels of poor conditions in homes, and a worrying prominence of unscrupulous landlords. These three areas of great concern must be addressed urgently. More social homes and all-tenure homes must be built annually, at a good standard.
To tackle homelessness, we need to see a transition to settled accommodation, so that homeless people who are offered single-room accommodation in a crisis are not then pushed back out onto the streets.
We urgently need a two-pronged approach which both builds more social and affordable housing and also prioritises equal access to settled housing for all. Once we do this, we also need to ensure that legislation holds landlords accountable, prioritises rights for tenants and awards funding for retrofitting and damp management to combat the problems with much of the existing housing stock, in order to create safer, liveable conditions.
Recently, we’ve had weeks of talking about all aspects of Scotland’s housing crisis. That’s fantastic. But, now it’s time to show the value of our words and start the action.
Foysol Choudhury is a Labour MSP for Lothian