Glasgow City Council must ‘act quickly’ to solve lack of temporary housing for homeless
Glasgow City Council must “act quickly” to ensure suitable temporary accommodation is in place for homeless people ahead of new regulations coming into force, the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) has warned.
A report found that before the coronavirus pandemic, the council did not have enough temporary accommodation to meet demand and failed to meet its statutory duty to offer it in nearly a third of cases.
And while there has been a significant improvement since March 2020, with the council complying with its statutory duty in “almost all instances”, the need has largely been met by vacant hotels and B&Bs.
The new Unsuitable Accommodation Order – to come into force before the end of this parliamentary term – will reduce the time limit homeless households spend in unsuitable accommodation such as B&Bs to seven days.
Michael Cameron, chief executive of the SHR, said: “The council has undertaken and continues to undertake a wide programme of improvement and transformation activity as part of its Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan. It has made some important improvements in its service.
“The council should address the weaknesses we identified in its approach to temporary accommodation to help it build on and sustain compliance with its statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation and prepare for the extension of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order. It should ensure that it has an adequate level of suitable temporary accommodation which meets the diverse needs of people experiencing homelessness.
“We expect the council to ensure that its recovery plans address the weaknesses in its approach to temporary accommodation.”
In 2019-20, Glasgow offered 9,096 placements for homeless people in temporary accommodation but failed to make an offer on 3,886 occasions.
Single people were disproportionately affected, with 66 per cent of homeless applications coming from this group, yet 83 per cent of them were not offered temporary accommodation.
But between April and August, 5,337 offers of temporary accommodation were made, while 32 households were not provided with such an offer.
Since the start of lockdown, the council has recruited an additional 17 staff to help improve the pace at which people are moving into settled accommodation.
However, as of the end of August, 4,586 households were waiting for settled accommodation. Of these, 3,311 were in temporary accommodation and 600 had been placed in B&Bs or hotels.
And in 2019-20, people spent an average of 228 days in temporary accommodation, significantly longer than the Scottish average of 184 – “a consequence of the time it takes the council to secure people settled accommodation”, the SHR report said.
A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said that despite lockdown, the homelessness service maintained 95 per cent of its business as usual. She added: “The service has improved in several areas, including preventing the cycle of repeat homelessness. However, our biggest challenge remains our access to temporary accommodation.
“This cannot be solved overnight. The council does not have its own housing stock, so we will continue to work with the city’s 68 registered social landlords (RSLs) and City Building to bring quality temporary accommodation back into use as quickly as possible.
“We remain committed to working in partnership with the third sector and RSLs on a range of improvements we are making through our Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan, our new alliancing model and housing first.”
Shelter Scotland, which launched legal action against the council last year over homeless people being refused their legal right to accommodation, said the report “confirms the systemic failure of Glasgow City Council’s homelessness services”.
Director Alison Watson said: “We’ll now take the time to carefully reflect on the report and assess what needs to happen next. We welcome the regulator’s findings and recommendations and look forward to meeting to discuss the issues further. The test will be how Glasgow City Council responds positively to this unprecedented intervention.
“Our shared goal must be to ensure that everyone who presents to the council as homeless is provided with the safe and suitable accommodation they’re legally entitled to.”