19:03 PM, 27th September 2023, About 2 months ago 15
West Lothian Council is facing a housing crisis as the cost-of-living crisis has forced many private landlords to sell off their properties, leaving former tenants in need of accommodation.
In a report by the council’s housing needs manager, Sarah Kelly, around 100 private landlords in West Lothian sold up their properties in 2022, resulting in a loss of 170 rented homes.
She said that most of the tenants who were evicted from their private tenancies turned to the council for housing, increasing the demand for temporary and permanent accommodation.
Ms Kelly told a meeting of the Governance and Risk Committee that the council had a more stable relationship with the private sector than neighbouring Edinburgh, which was more affected by the short term let market.
However, she added that the cost-of-living crisis had hit the costs of both private and hotel accommodation, putting pressure on the council’s budget, Edinburgh Live reports.
Ms Kelly said: “The increased costs and overspend in housing need is largely to do with the provision of B&B. We rely on B&Bs.
“The cost-of-living crisis has also hit costs in hotel provision.”
She also said that there was a growing lack of trust in the private rented sector (PRS) from tenants who had been served with eviction notices.
Ms Kelly explained: “They are very reluctant to consider private tenancy again.”
The council was told that its homes are considered by many to be a better option than renting in the private sector, as it has a very low turnover of properties and offers long term security.
However, the council has a limited supply of homes available with only 560 properties to let last year and a waiting list of around 10,000 applicants.
A report to the committee spells out the problem: “There continues, however, to be a high backlog of homeless applicants where the council has a statutory duty to secure a permanent outcome.
“As of February 2023, the backlog of open homeless cases was 1,188.
“This, along with the high demand for temporary accommodation and the low supply of available permanent lets across the social rented sector has reduced turnover in suitable temporary accommodation stock and subsequently caused an ongoing reliance on the use of B&B accommodation to meet the council’s statutory homeless duties.”
The council has developed a range of policies to address the housing crisis, including the development of shared temporary tenancies and supported accommodation – and it is investing in a buy back scheme.
The Conservative group leader, and chair of the governance and risk committee, Councillor Damian Doran-Timson, blamed the SNP/Green Scottish Government for the housing situation.
Edinburgh Live reports him saying: “It is concerning that more and more private landlords are leaving the housing market putting even greater stresses on West Lothian Council housing.
“At a time when the market needs more properties, we are seeing a sharp reduction in availability.
“Whilst cost of living pressures may be the reason behind some of the landlords are not keeping properties, I have no doubt a bigger factor is the anti-landlord and anti-business policies of the SNP/Green Scottish Government.”
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