Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Shelter Scotland is 40

May 23 2009
The problems the charity was formed to combat are still acute: Shelter estimates a minimum of 10,000 additional lets are needed This year Shelter Scotland marks its 40th anniversary. At its launch in 1968, the charity was faced a situation even more complex than the one it now confronts. At that time the UK was suffering not just the aftermath of the war - when the housing problem moved to the forefront of the political spectrum - but also faced rising unemployment; a decline in the industrial sector and the baby boom. By 1970 its problems were compounded by a Conservative government which wanted to reverse the trend of interventionist policy. Back then, over-crowding and slums had been a major problem in Scotland‚Äö?Ñ?¥s central belt for generations. After the Second World War, the government began one of the most ambitious challenges of its history: a staggering 86 per cent of all houses constructed after the war were built for the public sector. The so-called Clyde Valley Plan, devised by Sir Patrick Abercrombie and his team, proposed to move people out of dilapidated housing in the city centre into New Towns and peripheral housing schemes. Many of these housing projects, mostly tower blocks completely unsuitable for families or pensioners, were built in haste and began going into decline almost before the first tenants had moved in. Ironically, at that time they were viewed as a salvation, and were welcomed in the community simply because they had new-fangled facilities such as inside toilets. By contrast the figures in the period 2006-7 virtually reverses that percentage: 84 per cent of the houses in Scotland were built by the private sector; just 28 homes were built by local authorities and 3,648 by housing associations. In 1971, Shelter opened its first housing aid centre in Scotland, based in Edinburgh, giving direct help on a one-to-one basis to people with housing needs. Shelter‚Äö?Ñ?¥s housing aid network grew through the 1980s and 1990s and now incorporates a partnership with all the country‚Äö?Ñ?¥s Citizens Advice Bureaux. However, the charity‚Äö?Ñ?¥s most important campaign has been its battle to give homeless people basic legal protection. Following years of relentless campaigning, in 1977, legislation was passed in England and Wales that provided a right to housing for people who were homeless. From the outset, in practice most single people or childless couples were excluded, but the Act proved to be a landmark in the fight against homelessness. The legislation took six months to become fully effective in Scotland, because some local authorities and politicians tried to block it. In 2003, the Scottish parliament announced the revolutionary pledge that everybody in Scotland would have the right to a home by 2012 (see ‚Äö?Ñ??2012 and all that‚Äö?Ñ?¥). But so far the figures show that, far from improving, the situation has deteriorated. In November 2007, the budget allocated less than 20 per cent of the additional money needed to meet Scotland‚Äö?Ñ?¥s housing needs. The housing and homeless charity believes the target can still be met, but only with more government investment in affordable rented housing. In particular, Shelter estimates a minimum of 10,000 additional lets are needed. Furthermore, it considers that pressing housing associations to help house more homeless people; using private landlords to fulfil a semi-social role, involving longer-term lets, higher management standards; and measures to address high rents should be high on the to-do list for Scottish Ministers if the nation is to abolish homelessness within the next three years.