UK GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO TACKLE POVERTY TO PREVENT OVERCROWDING AND HOMELESSNESS
I called for more action from the UK Government to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, thrown into sharp relief during Covid19. Scotland has made significant progress on affordable house building, having built 97,000 houses since 20007 with 75% more affordable homes built per head of population than in both England and Wales in the four years to 2020. However, Scotland needs more powers to fully address the root causes of poverty and debt that lead to overcrowding and homelessness.
There is a clear link between poor quality, overcrowded housing, and poor mental and physical health outcomes. The Covid19 pandemic has thrown this into stark relief, as self-isolation and shielding become much more difficult, putting people at greater risk of catching and dying from the virus.
The Scottish Government has diverted significant funds to mitigate the effects of cruel Tory benefit policies such as the bedroom tax; policies which push people into debt and poverty, putting them at risk of homelessness. With 85% of benefits reserved to the UK Government, the powers of the Scottish Government are limited, but in 2021/22, an estimated £82 million will be spent on the Discretionary Housing Payment, helping renters sustain their tenancies, including fully mitigating the bedroom tax, supporting all 70,000 people in Scotland who would otherwise be liable to pay this. This matters because the UK Government freeze on local authority housing rates in cash terms in 2021-22 puts at risk all the work done by the Scottish Government to support homeless people, and it potentially makes private sector tenancies unsustainable for some.
Overcrowding and poor quality housing has been directly linked with poor physical and mental health as well as to people catching and dying of covid19. The UK Government needs to review its policies on housing, support to keep people in sustainable tenancies if it is serious about addressing overcrowding and homelessness.
You can watch my speech below.