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Homelessness surge in region

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Homelessness surge in region

HOMELESSNESS figures are climbing high in Dumfries and Galloway amid an increase in evictions – and private landlords cashing in on the booming housing market.

The number of homeless applications this summer has jumped by a third compared to last year, primarily due to relationship break-ups.

However, a return to pre-covid eviction rules and more private landlords selling their houses are also factors in more families being left without a roof over their head.

Dumfries and Nithsdale Provost Tracy Little has described the situation as “alarming”, while Mid Galloway and Wigtown West Councillor David Inglis was busy last week trying to help a mother who had been kicked out by her landlord.

A homeless report tabled at the council’s communities committee last week stated: “The main underlying factors for increased presentations is breakdown in household relationships. In addition, the reinstatement of eviction actions, and increase in private landlords serving notice to quit with a view to selling their properties in the current buoyant property market, is also impacting the service.

“While the prevention work being done by the welfare and housing options team to prevent evictions is making a difference, the service is seeing more presentations due to financial impacts.”

Financial wellbeing and revenues officer Lorna Campbell told last week’s committee that “the sheer demand for temporary accommodation has been extremely challenging.”

There were 325 applications to Dumfries and Galloway Council for temporary homeless accommodation between April and June – 82 more than the same period last year – and an increase of 33.7 percent.

The number of out of hours cases rose from 44 to 64, while the number of households in temporary accommodation is up from 177 to 190.

Councillor David Inglis told how he was assisting a family who had been turfed out of a private let.

He said: “She has a good job, lives in the town she works in, and her child goes to school in the town she’s living in.

“She was in private rented accommodation, was handed her notice, and found it really difficult to get anywhere. She had to get out of the house this week.

“The homeless service have done their best and have been trying really hard to find her somewhere, though late in the day on Monday or Tuesday, she still had no idea where she was going to be that night.

“At 4.55 pm she got a call and the same happened the following day. She was living in limbo, not knowing where she was going to be.”

During the pandemic, the Scottish Government introduced an eviction ban, however this has now changed back to notice periods. A landlord can now ask a tenant to leave in 28 or 84 days, depending on how long the tenant has lived in the property and the reason why.

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