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Scottish council house rent arrears up by 14%

Council house rent arrears in Scotland have soared by 14% over the last year, according to official statistics.

Figures released by the Scottish Government reveal that rent arrears on all council properties totalled £74m in March, up £9m (14%) on the previous year.

During the same period, the number of council tenants in arrears increased by around 2,940 tenants or 3% to 102,702 and the number of former tenants in arrears decreased by around 2,180 tenants or 7.0% to around 30,400.

Shelter Scotland’s director, Graeme Brown described the 14% rise was ‘very worrying’ as it presents a ‘direct threat to councils’ revenue and therefore undermines their ability to invest in building more council homes’.

‘Combined with the impending post-2021 cliff-edge on plans for council house building, the issue of how new council homes are to be funded in the long-term needs to be looked at imminently,’ added Mr Brown.

‘Building enough social homes to meet demand across Scotland is the only way Scotland can combat its housing emergency.’

The figures also show councils wrote off nearly £10.8m of outstanding rent as unrecoverable in 2018/19, compared to £10.1m in the previous year.

There were 311,240 council houses in Scotland in March 2019, which is an increase of around 1,100 houses since March 2018.

According to the official figures, this is forecast to increase by 1,300 by March 2020.

The figures also how income from council houses was £1.21bn in 2018-19.

Of this, around £656m was spent on housing management and maintenance and £277m on loan charges.

The surplus of £234m was invested in housing capital projects, including new build council houses and enhancing existing stock.

‘A combination of austerity cuts, welfare reform, low incomes and job insecurity are the main drivers behind these worrying figures,’ added Mr Brown.

‘We urge councils to do all they can to help people struggling with their rent and to only use eviction as the last possible option after all other ways of helping tenants have been tried.’

Photo Credit – WenzlerDesign (Pixabay)

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