By Robyn Smith, Aberdeen Socialist Party Scotland
Over the past few years Aberdeen has faced a housing crisis in both the council and private housing sectors. As a result, more people are struggling to maintain a roof over their heads and many are facing homelessness.
One of the biggest issues in Aberdeen, and really the whole of Scotland, is the lack of affordable, quality council housing. Rents have increased, conditions are below an acceptable level and the application process has left people waiting several years before they are offered a place to live.
Housing charity Shelter have shown that in 2005 the average weekly rent for local authority housing was just under £43. Since then this figure has rocketed to £62 in 2014 and is now even as much as £90 in some parts of Scotland. This leaves a great deal of households struggling to provide for their families as there has been little improvement to the average wages.
On top of the increasing rents, council residents are also forced to live in homes that are of a poor quality and can pose a health and safety risk. This was demonstrated in Shelter Scotland’s report showing that 1 in 10 households in the country are facing problems with dampness. If homes were built with better quality materials to begin with, these health issues would be eradicated and in turn would reduce the strain on our health services. The Grenfell tower tragedy has proven that working people live in homes where budgets takes priority over safety. It is therefore crucial that we campaign to ensure that the safety of the residents is paramount.
In the last year local councils in Scotland received over 34,000 individual reports of homelessness. This is almost a 6,000 increase from 2015. Charities are being pushed to breaking point to try and reduce the problem but realistically there is little in the way of actual improvements that the charitable sector can make. Only with a more socialist approach to housing policy will we see a significant difference.
It is also massively important that local authorities work harder to reduce the time homeless families spend in temporary accommodation. Currently, there are over 10,000 families in Scotland living in temporary accommodation. For some this means living in a hostel but one third will remain in temporary accommodation for more than 6 months. We need to ensure that people are spending as little time as possible in temporary accommodation because it does not provide the level of security that they need, not to mention the mental health issues like depression that many in these situation suffer from as a result.
The Scottish government have pledged to build 35,000 more council houses by 2021 but it is becoming more apparent that this is insufficient. Families across the country are really struggling to keep up with rent payments as the cost of living continues to rise every year, but at the same time wages barely increase at all.
With socialist policies such as allowing councils to takeover private empty homes, rent caps in the private sector, a fairer living wage of £10 an hour for all workers over 18 and, above all, a massive programme of building quality council homes, we could see a society that has a better quality and more readily available housing plan, helping to end the current crisis.