Research by Crisis shows that the welfare cuts could undermine any achievements made in tackling homelessness in Scotland.
Scottish Parliament were told yesterday that the cuts to the welfare budget, in particular the bedroom tax, will negatively impact 90,000 social tenants in Scotland and could increase homelessnes.
In contrast to England, homelessness has been falling in Scotland in recent years with Scottish Government figures released in October showing there had been a 13 per cent drop in homelessness applications in the country to 10,395 in the second quarter of this year from the same period last year.
The Scottish Government mainly attributes this success to its statutory target of ending homelessness by the end of the year, which means every council in Scotland must provide a home for every unintentionally homeless person by 31 December 2012.
The report says the penalty will ‘almost certainly drive up rent arrears and evictions, especially given the existence in Scotland of a serious mismatch between the stock profile (mainly family-sized accommodation) and much social housing demand (from single people, including single homeless people).’
The bedroom tax will cut working age social tenants’ housing benefit by an average of 14 per cent for those with one spare room and 25 per cent for two spare rooms from April next year.
The Homelessness monitor: Scotland 2012 also states the extension of the ‘shared accommodation rate’ of local housing allowance to 25 to 34-year-olds will ‘increase pressure on a limited supply of shared accommodation’.
It says it could possibly force vulnerable people into inappropriate shared settings.
The shared room rate is lower than all other housing benefit payments and is currently paid to claimants under 25. It is based on the amount of rent charged for a single room with shared use of the rest of a house.
Lead researcher Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick said:
It remains to be seen whether such gains can be maintained in the face of the prolonged recession, radical welfare cutbacks, and a tightening supply of affordable housing for those on low and modest incomes.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said:
Scotland has led the UK in tackling homelessness by widening its statutory safety net but to maintain this progress the Scottish Government and councils will need to ensure that homelessness and housing remains a clear policy and spending priority next year and going forward.
The Scottish Government says much of the success in bringing down homelessness applications is due to prevention strategies, including the ‘housing options’ scheme which aims to help someone with housing need without them putting in a homelessness application.
Eight Scottish councils were still falling short of hitting the target with 18 days to go before the deadline.
Source: Inside Housing