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by Joseph Lozada
17 January 2024
Homelessness could rise by a third by 2026, report warns

Rough sleeping is on the rise | Alamy

Homelessness could rise by a third by 2026, report warns

Homelessness levels in Scotland are projected to rise by a third in the next two years if government does not act, a new report from the Heriot-Watt University has found.

The 2024 Scottish Homelessness Monitor predicted the number of people sleeping rough, living in hostels or using unsuitable temporary accommodation could increase by 33 per cent by 2026.

It comes after three local councils – Edinburgh, Glasgow and Argyll and Bute – declared a housing crisis emergency due to underfunding from central government.

Fife Council is also reportedly set to declare a housing emergency in the coming weeks as homelessness continues to rise.

The monitor, commissioned by homelessness charity Crisis, is part of a series of studies providing in-depth research on homelessness levels in Britain.

Senior research fellow Dr Beth Watts-Cobbe said: “This year’s homelessness monitor paints the picture of a system under huge strain – with rising numbers of people presenting as homeless over the past two years, reports of growing footfall from local authorities and intense challenges accessing accommodation to resolve people’s homelessness.”

Overall, the report found that an estimated 18,400 households experienced a form of “core homelessness” in 2022 – the most acute form of homelessness, like rough sleeping. That is up by 11 per cent since 2020.

The use of B&Bs and hotels across Scotland grew by 124 per cent in the three years up to March 2023, with lengths of stay in temporary accommodation also rising.

The report also surveyed thirty local authorities, finding that more than half of councils reported that service user footfall had “significantly increased” in 2022/23 compared with the previous year and a further quarter reporting that it had “increased slightly.” 

The report calls for a comprehensive package of measures to tackle homelessness, including increasing the level of housing benefit by tying local housing allowance to the median rent across the UK and increasing working age benefit levels.

It estimates this, alongside other preventative measures which could be brought in by the Scottish Government, could reduce core homelessness by 56 per cent by 2026.

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The risk of a significant rise in homelessness over the coming years should worry us all. We can’t just sit back and watch as more people are forced onto the streets, to sleep in cars or garages, or spent months or years trapped in emergency accommodation that just isn’t fit for their basic needs.”

Crisis has previously urged the Scottish Government to allow people to get help earlier – up to six months before they are at risk – while also introducing new legal duties requiring public services to play a greater role in preventing homelessness.

Mark Griffin, Scottish Labour housing spokesperson, also voiced alarm at the projections. He said: “This damning report lays bare the impending catastrophe Scotland is facing. We need urgent action across the board to deal with this growing problem and ensure that everyone has a safe, secure home – including building affordable housing, properly funding Councils and tackling the cost of living crisis.”

The report’s proposals – some of which are expected to be in the forthcoming Housing Bill – have strong support from local councils, particularly plans for new referral provisions for private landlords and new duties on social landlords and local authorities to prevent homelessness. 

However, local authorities have warned that any changes must be appropriately resourced.

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