Private landlords could play a far greater role in helping to end homelessness in Scotland, according to a new report from a coalition of homelessness and housing experts.
Releasing its new report, the Everyone Home collective set out how the private rented sector could become a more accessible option for people experiencing homelessness looking for a settled, secure place to live.
The Collective, made up of nearly 40 third sector organisations and academics, strongly welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, a mid-term commitment that would result in the delivery of 38,500 social homes by the end of this parliament in 2026.
But while social housing plays a key role in helping people end their homelessness, the private rented sector is very rarely an option.
In its new report, the group found that widening access to support and advice in private lets would help make the private rented sector more accessible to people experiencing homelessness.
It called on the Scottish Government to promote the role it sees the PRS playing in meeting current and future housing need, setting out a clear vision for the size and role the sector should play in the future tenure composition of housing in Scotland.
It also urged the Scottish Government to support local authorities – in guidance and in practice – to work productively with the PRS to reduce and resolve homelessness.
Incentives for landlords should also be considered, with the aim of improving PRS quality, access and affordability, which also to appeal to landlords who rent to lower income households.
It also recommended targeted, proactive approaches to homelessness prevention for groups which may be at greater risk of eviction, alongside the use of Scottish Government social security powers to top up support for those subject to Local Housing Allowance shortfalls in PRS who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Sarah Walters, head of best practice at homelessness charity Crisis, said: “Social housing plays a vital role in helping people end their homelessness. But while for many people a social tenancy is the right option, with better support we know the private rented sector could play a far greater role in helping people find a safe, secure place to live.
“With numbers of people trapped in temporary accommodation at an all-time high, and with a shortage of affordable housing in Scotland, we need to use every option available to us and the private rented sector can help. People experiencing homelessness deserve the same choice and control as anyone else, but we know that they are far too often locked out of the private rented sector. By reducing barriers and providing support, we can help people end their homelessness and strengthen our communities.”
Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “There are many factors that influence the choices we make about our housing. From size and type, to location and accessibility, to time and cost.
“People who experience homelessness must have access to the same range of housing options as other members of the public. For some people, the private rented sector offers the right choice, in the right place at the right time. For this reason, it is in everyone’s interest to work together to ensure the PRS is a viable and affordable option.”
A ‘route forward for the private rented sector’ (Everyone Home collective; Aug 2023) is available to download here. For a briefing and to discuss the route-map, a webinar is being held on 24 August, 10.30-11.30 with speakers including Patrick Harvie MSP. To join the webinar please register here.