THE housing situation in Fife has officially tipped from a state of crisis into a state of emergency, councillors have agreed.

Labour, LibDem and Tory elected members voted to declare a housing emergency in the area and order an emergency housing action plan to be drawn up by June. 

“I hoped I would never have to bring this motion to the council because it’s not a place that any of us wanted to be, said Labour spokesperson for housing Judy Hamilton.

"We tackled every challenge head on and we’ve worked hard to avert this. By declaring a housing emergency today, we hope to draw wide-scale attention to an issue of urgent importance with united action.” 

Hamilton cited the increasing housing and homelessness pressures facing Fife. She said the situation is becoming “ever more serious.” 

She added: “Fife Council alongside around 15 other councils are breaching or are at risk of breaching statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation or suitable accommodation.” 

Hamilton revealed that there are more than 13,500 people on Fife’s housing register and the council is expecting to have around 2700 new homelessness applications by the end of March – a 7% increase from previous years. 

Council leader David Ross agreed that now is the time to declare an emergency and bring attention to the pressures facing Fife’s housing service. 

However, SNP group leader David Alexander opposed the declaration and called the message and timing nothing but politics. 

“If we thought that declaring a housing emergency now would bring in substantial resources to make a difference, we would support that, but slogans don’t do that and delaying action until June is just that – another delay and there has been enough of them,” he said. 

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The SNP group said it believes that if there was a time to call a housing emergency, it was in May 2022 when a sheriff court judgement forced the council to change how it used temporary accommodation. 

The party argued that there was yet another opportunity to declare an emergency after it was revealed that Fife was breaching its statutory housing duties in October 2022. 

SNP councillor David Barratt argued: “But we didn’t declare an emergency and since then, service managers have been telling us pressures are less acute. Committee reports point to voids slowly reducing and the council is now meeting its statutory obligations [more consistently], so it seems odd declaring now and not before.” 

The two parties also argued about where to place the blame for the housing emergency.

The Labour administration said that the Scottish Government is to blame for the national new build Affordable Housing Programme budget by 26% this year. The SNP group blame the reduction on Westminster – they claim the Scottish Government has had no choice but to pass on budget cuts they have taken from the UK Government.  

However, Labour councillor Mary Bain Lockhart said she refused to engage in “political tit-for-tattery” calling it a “waste of time.” 

“We’ve now been in a crisis for about 10 years in terms of housing. And the answer to any crisis lies in radical reform,” she said. 

“All we’ve been doing at every level is managing the crisis and mitigating its impact on our constituents. Now we’re at the stage where that crisis has become an emergency. And I believe we should call an emergency out when we see it.” 

She continued: “That calls for immediate action and it’s not helpful for us to be dividing along party lines of whose fault it is and where the blame lies. We need radical reform and we need to work together to agree on what comprises the elements of that reform.” 

Councillors voted to pass Hamilton’s Housing Emergency declaration 36 to 31 on Thursday. 

As a result, the housing service will create an emergency housing action plan to the cabinet committee meeting in June.