2024: Something doesn’t add up…

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, on the long-term impacts of short-term decisions on housing. And what needs to happen now to make 2024 count.

Imagine there was enough decent and affordable housing for everyone in Scotland in the places we want to build and live our lives.

What would happen?

Firstly, we would see radical improvements in Scotland’s physical and mental health.

It is widely understood that our health is shaped by factors that go well beyond the heredity and genetic cards we were dealt or even how we access and experience health and social care services. Housing is one of the most influential factors making us more or less healthy – as individuals and across whole communities and populations.

Secondly, poverty and inequality in Scotland would shrink.

More equal societies do better on almost every measure that matters. But inequality persists in Scotland, including within the housing system. People are systematically disadvantaged due to factors including our income, our race, our gender, our age, and our health. Even our orientation, how we identify and express ourselves, exposes people to a greater risk of inadequate housing and homelessness.

But impactful housing and fiscal policy, especially at the supply side, would redress this. It has already been shown that lower social rents and a more responsive supply of social homes create lower rates of poverty in Scotland. There is also fresh appetite for policy that tackles inequalities in housing wealth – not just the different advantages between renting and home ownership, but the difference between owning one and owning multiple homes.

When housing is affordable and available, there are also wider positive benefits for the local economy, for employment growth and job retention. Keeping housing supply affordable is critically dependent on a pipeline of capacity and resource that keeps pace with the demand for it.

Thirdly, homelessness as we know it would end.

Homelessness is not only a housing issue, but it’s always a housing issue. There is simply no route to ending homelessness in Scotland that doesn’t include more social and affordable housing. The homelessness sector has modernised over recent decades and now embraces a culture that most of us, with the right support if we need it, can build and live our lives in an ordinary home in an ordinary community.

With a supply of affordable housing in harmony with demand, we would see the key pillars of Scotland’s progressive homelessness policy implemented with greater ease – prevention, cutting the strings to our over-reliance on unsuitable, expensive and temporary accommodation, ensuring childhoods are spent in settled not temporary homes, scaling up Housing First for those at the hardest edge – and ensuring people seeking sanctuary or to settle in Scotland have a safe place to stay at all times.

With enough decent and affordable housing, Scotland would healthier, happier, fairer and more economically secure.

Nice start to the year, isn’t it?

But instead, we’re sweeping up the glass of Scottish Government’s December budget which unveiled a £200m cut to affordable housing – jeopardising housing targets and exposing the progress made towards ending homelessness and rough sleeping to unnecessary risk.

And so say all of us. Over the last year, coordinated representation, evidence and opinion across all these points and more have been made by:

  • Local authorities, individually and through the leadership structures of ALACHO and SOLACE.
  • The housing sector, including through SFHA, CIH Scotland and GWSF.
  • The home building industry, including through Homes for Scotland.
  • The homelessness and refugee sectors, including through the Everyone Home collective and the relentless campaigning of Shelter Scotland.
  • Regulators and auditors, including the Scottish Housing Regulator, the Accounts Commission and Auditor General.
  • Platforms for people directly affected, including All in For Change and tenants’ organisations.
  • The anti-poverty sector, including the Poverty Alliance and Child Poverty Action Group.
  • The academic and knowledge sector, including I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It doesn’t add up.

When the case is presented by so many informed stakeholders. When the benefits of more and better homes are so fundamental and self-evident. And when the consequence of not providing it is so devastating to people’s lives – then the questions and reactions will inevitably become more complex and more pressured in 2024. If government doesn’t have enough capacity or resources to meet the demand for social and affordable housing in Scotland – who does? Where does that take us, and what happens next?

At Homeless Network Scotland’s annual conference in October, and at our post-budget meeting in December, Housing Minister Paul McLennan outlined the Scottish Government strategy to attract private finance into Scotland’s housing system. The Minister has been proactive about securing investment to meet Scotland’s housing need since he took up office in March, and we support his commitment to a model and method that retains investor confidence while ensuring protections for people who rent their home.

The problem of course now is that any new investment needs to first plug a shortfall before it can progress us further than we already were.

Making it count.

This new environment for housing in 2024 will compel all parts of the housing and homelessness sector to put forward priorities and options to mitigate the worst impacts of a drastically reduced housing budget for the year ahead. Policy and budget decisions don’t add up, but we still need to make it count – this is our starting point:

  • Stop the big freeze. The UK Government’s capital budget being frozen to March 2028 means close to a 10% real terms cut over 5 years for infrastructure projects in Scotland, including housing. Reversing or tempering this forecast would reinstate some of the lost capital budget – and is not beyond possibility.
  • Prevent the pile up. The Scottish Government cut the housing budget beyond the inflationary freeze sent by Westminster. Reversing or tempering this decision – and redressing the impact in next year’s budget, will increase confidence and support.
  • Think big on social investment. There are a small number of third sector organisations who have already shown leadership and innovation in how social investment, often in the form of low-cost repayable loans, can be used to create housing options. A group of us have come together to launch a new commission in 2024 that will build and present a business case for a strategic and national approach.
  • Focus on distribution. More capacity and levers for initiatives focused on empty homes and in reducing housing wealth inequality. The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence have already described policy reform potential, along with the twin constraints of devolved policy and reformability – the overall appetite for wealth reform across society.
  • Measure what matters. More than ever, we need to measure the impact of housing policy and spend. Last month, a coalition of experts called on local and national government to adopt a groundbreaking new tool, the Ending Homelessness Together Monitor. The carefully selected set of indicators are intended to demonstrate the interplay between what causes homelessness, the level of resources and tools needed to prevent and alleviate it and the adequacy of the system of services that help people through it.
  • Use a route map. To navigate an increasingly complex terrain, we need a clear route-map between the commitments in Housing to 2040 and the Ending Homelessness Together Plan and the aspirational outcomes in the new Ending Homelessness Together Monitor. This will provide the missing mechanism to sequence, cost, target and time the range of actions now needed.

Home for 10: Journal of Insights into Homelessness in Scotland

A collection of insights into homelessness in Scotland has been published to mark the 10-year anniversary of the 2012 commitment which had set Scotland apart internationally in how seriously it took the task of ending homelessness.

The 2012 commitment was the result of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003 so that everyone who is homeless would have a right to a home by 2012. For local authorities, this meant ending the assessment of whether people were ‘priority’ or ‘non-priority’ and instead giving every person who was ‘unintentionally homeless’ the right to a permanent home. This monumental change – in culture as well as legal terms – is considered to be the bedrock of Scotland’s acclaimed housing and homelessness rights.

But homelessness didn’t end in 2012, despite a promising downturn over several years that followed. A small upturn over the recent period has been coupled with the highest use of temporary accommodation on record, now understood as an unintended consequence of increasing housing rights without a corresponding increase in housing supply in the places people want to live. This has led to a series of measures from 2018-22 to adjust the course, with more focus on rapid rehousing, on prevention and on housing access and supply.

Homeless Network Scotland invited 10 of the housing and homelessness sector’s key experts with a reach backwards of at least 10 years to provide their insights – and provocations – for the wider sector. Another 10 people with a fresh perspective – or who have a vantage position and with broad oversight – were invited to describe what the way forward looks like.

The themes running through the journal underline the multi-faceted nature of homelessness and the corresponding need for versatility in responses. Contributors highlight the diversity of individual experiences and needs, along with the importance of trauma-informed approaches to support, and the power of offering flexible, personalised solutions. There are calls for systems change by streamlining and collaborating to break down siloes.

The journal highlights the impact of policy and legislation over the past decade and more – that these were not easy gains, and it will require tenacity to expand rights and entitlements based in law, to build new homes and to focus on prevention so that progress continues towards ending homelessness in the years to come.

Contributors highlighted the impact of trauma on individuals as they attempt to navigate housing and other systems. They suggest that we are still at an early stage with trauma-informed responses and, to realise fully their transformative potential, staff need greater depth of understanding. But questions are raised about workforce resilience and the sector’s struggles to recruit, train and retain the skilled staff it needs. Economic concerns are not confined to the workforce – the rising cost of living at a time of great uncertainty and challenge is a thread running through the journal’s pages, for households and for local authorities.

Change takes time and effort, and progress can be piecemeal when consensus is hard to come by. Successes of the past decade such as reducing rough sleeping, introducing Housing First and removing priority need are significant. There are calls now to focus on homelessness prevention, on reducing length of stay in temporary accommodation, and on personalised housing options. Contributors also advocate for change, in both policy and practice, to tackle the marginalisation of people by our current system. Their understanding of the experience of women, refugees, young people, and people using drugs highlight where investment is needed to achieve equality of access and a system that works for everyone.

A final theme to highlight is collaboration – with people with lived experience, between organisations and local authorities, and with government. Partnerships have enabled the changes we’ve seen in the past decade and in response to Covid, but there are calls for an evolution in what that collaboration looks like: being open to change and to take risks for the greater good – not only in delivery, but also in funding and commissioning. This is a call for system change across the sector, embracing alliance and integration as the way forward.

You can download the journal here.

Everyone Home respond to Consultation on Temporary Accommodation Standards

In October 2021, the Scottish Government established a working group to help produce a new standards framework for temporary accommodation in Scotland. In June 2022, the group published a comprehensive draft framework to consult with wider stakeholders. This is the response from the Everyone Home Collective to the working group’s draft framework.


Ensuring standards in temporary accommodation are consistent and of a good quality is needed due to the variance across different types and in different parts of Scotland. In 2018, the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group recommended a new framework to underpin temporary accommodation which was taken forward as an action in the joint Scottish Government/COSLA Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan in 2018, updated in 2020.


The Everyone Home Collective welcomes these updated standards and the opportunity to inform their development.  We hope the comments below help to further strengthen the standards and we look forward to hearing from Scottish Government about implementation and enforcement in due course.

A number of points were raised around implementation and enforcement which we understand is still being developed and we look forward to hearing more from the Scottish Government as this work progresses. In particular:

  • The standards need to be legally enforceable.
  • Organisations providing (or commissioning) temporary accommodation need to be held to account when the standards are not met.
  • People living in temporary accommodation need to know their rights in terms of the temporary accommodation standards they should expect.
  • Consideration should be given to the standards forming part of the commissioning process.
  • How will any exemptions be decided? There are specific challenges in different local authority in terms of availability of suitable temporary accommodation (especially in rural areas). Instead of allowing areas to not meet the standards, the Scottish Government should ensure that sufficient resources are available to address these challenges so that the standards can be met.
  • Consider adopting the human rights law approach around ‘progressive realisation.’
  • The role of the Regulator in leading enforcement is key.
  • Practice-focused guidance will help implementation and can be strengthened with the addition of personal accounts of good practice.

The collective discussed the implications of the increasing length of time people are having to stay in temporary accommodation. There are a number of implications we would like Scottish Government to consider when finalising the standards:

  • We understand that the HPSG Task and Finish Group will make recommendations on how to reduce the use of, and time spent in, temporary accommodation. We encourage the group to consider how to reduce the costs incurred through the high use of temporary accommodation as well as the importance of increasing supply of accommodation, of the right size and in the right places.
  • Suitability of temporary accommodation should be reviewed at regular intervals, as people’s health and other support needs are likely to change the longer they are in temporary accommodation.
  • A number of local authorities practice ‘flipping’ of temporary tenancies to permanent tenancies, where this arrangement meets the needs of the tenant. How will the temporary accommodation standards impact on this practice, which can be a very positive outcome for tenants?

The standards need to ensure the standards meet the needs of all groups and we recommend giving specific consideration to the following:

  • The standards state that the accommodation needs to be accessible. Limited accessible stock can mean that disabled people are asked to make compromises such as accepting accommodation in an unsuitable location. Local authorities need to equality impact assess their practices and ensure compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
  • As noted above, people’s needs regarding accessibility (and other parts of the standards) are likely to change over time and the ongoing suitability of the accommodation should be reviewed regularly.
  • People experiencing domestic abuse should feel safe in temporary accommodation and receive the specific support they need. This is predominantly women, but male victims will also need accommodation and support and there is currently a lack of appropriate services for male victims.
  • Temporary accommodation support needs to be trauma informed.
  • Women with experience of sexual abuse will need safe accommodation and access to specific support and services.
  • Single-sex accommodation should be available where people would feel unsafe in mixed-sex accommodation.
  • Gender identity is a sensitive topic and the Scottish Government should seek specific advice to ensure everyone accessing temporary accommodation is treated with dignity and feels safe.
  • The impact of these standards on people with different protected characteristics should be monitored and reviewed over time, with commitments made to address any changes needed.

Temporary Accommodation Standards – a Draft Framework

In October 2021, the Scottish Government established a Working Group to help produce a new standards framework for temporary accommodation in Scotland. The group has developed a draft framework and are now consulting wider stakeholders.


Ensuring standards in temporary accommodation are consistent and of a good quality has been a priority for many stakeholders, due to the variance in standards across different types and in different areas. In 2018, the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group recommended a new framework to underpin temporary accommodation, taken forward as an action in the joint Scottish Government and COSLA Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan in 2018, updated in 2020.

In August 2019, Scottish Government held a consultation on improving temporary accommodation standards, which proposed changes to three main areas:

1.    The Unsuitable Accommodation Order;

2.    Advisory standards for temporary accommodation; and

3.    The development of a temporary accommodation standards framework.

Progess against each area includes (1) the Unsuitable Accommodation Order was extended to all homeless households from May 2020 and (2) new advisory standards for temporary accommodation were created and published in November 2019 in the interim Homelessness Code of Guidance.


Between October 2021 and May 2022, the Working Group has developed a draft set of standards, the third and final area of the original consultation. The draft standards span considerations for local authorities and partners in relation to:

  • Physical Standards
  • Location Standards
  • Service Standards
  • Management Standards

In advance of the draft temporary accommodation standards being agreed later this year, the Working Group are seeking stakeholder input on the content of the standards. The group invites you to review the temporary accommodation standards and provide comments to ensure that the quality of temporary accommodation is of good standard and meets the needs of the whole household.


View the draft Temporary Accommodation Standards Framework here.

Responses by email to the Scottish Government’s Homelessness Team on Homelessness_External_Mail@gov.scot

Please respond no later than 17 June 2022.