EVICTION looms for a mother and her disabled son in West Lothian. Lorraine Robinson-Moseley has occupied her private sector home for nine years, but her landlord wanted to sell the property and secured an order from the first-tier tribunal to

do so.

The case demonstrates worrying problems. Why are people being evicted at all in parts of Scotland during Level Four lockdown? All Ms Robinson-Moseley needs is a few weeks before a social rented tenancy becomes available in January.

Where is the public interest in evicting people during winter in the middle of the most pernicious pandemic in living memory?

We aren’t talking about anti-social behaviour cases here. In England, there’s a winter freeze on evictions until at least January 11. Bailiffs – the English equivalent to sheriff officers – can’t enforce ejection orders until then. Why haven’t we done this?

The Scottish coronavirus legislation lengthened the pre-eviction notice period for tenants. In the last three months to October, councils and housing associations served almost two and a half thousand notices of proceedings for possession for rent arrears. In that same period, 272 eviction actions were raised for rent arrears, with eviction decrees granted in 46 cases.

Evictions are happening this winter during lockdown in Scotland.

Ms Robinson-Moseley’s precarious position shows how the private rented sector (PRS) doesn’t provide a home for life. When the private residential tenancy was introduced in 2016 it was lauded as ending “no-fault” evictions and providing security. Security was a mirage as private landlords can still evict for no-fault reasons: to move in relatives, sell or refurbish.

In the 1970s, around 20% of Scottish homes were in the PRS. Back then, local housing associations were born across the country providing high-quality homes for life. By the 1990s, the PRS had shrunk to 10%, but grew again with a rise in buy-to-let mortgages and is now at 14%.

Excluding expensive student halls, the PRS doesn’t really build anything. It includes a lot of recycled public housing snapped up during the past right-to-buy era. And yet, the Scottish Government has been keen to encourage its growth and role in tackling Scotland’s housing crisis.

The PRS will always be a transient, expensive or unworkable solution for people who need a home for life. Its purpose is to provide an investment and income for landlords. The average PRS rent for a two-bed flat in Greater Glasgow is now £794 per month (£969 in Edinburgh), while the equivalent rent from the Glasgow Housing Association is £366 per month.

Last month the number of Scottish households in temporary homeless accommodation stood at 14,121. Demand is there, so where is the supply? In the last three months to October, Scottish councils granted 5598 Scottish secure tenancies (SSTs) but only 48% went to people who were homeless.

Housing associations granted 7455 SSTs in the same period with only 35% going to homeless applicants languishing in temporary accommodation or sofa surfing. We have a supply-side problem, as well as an allocation and distribution problem.

The Scottish Government’s five-year target (May 2016 to May 2021) is for 35,000 new properties to be built by housing associations and councils to let as SSTs.

Audit Scotland’s 2020 affordable housing report said: “By the end of the five-year programme, if the 35,000 social rent completions element of the target is met, we estimate that the net impact of the target (after estimating for council demolitions) could be around an additional 23,800 social rented homes, although this is at the upper end of estimates.”

Audit Scotland’s figure doesn’t include housing association demolitions, so we might be looking at a net gain of around 4000 new homes to let as SSTs each year – far short of the physical demand. In 2015, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations estimated Scotland needed 12,000 new homes for social rent each year.

Over the weekend, the SNP pledged to extend free school meals to all primary school pupils by 2022 if re-elected. This is a much-needed initiative to tackle food poverty. Why can’t we have such bold thinking for social housing? Where are the new ideas and vision?

The Scottish National Investment Bank could underwrite a scheme to enable social landlords to buy-up private rented stock or private stock generally as a five-year plan to help meet the demand for SSTs. It’s time for more radical thinking to tackle our housing crisis.

Such an initiative could be implemented alongside rent controls – like Pauline McNeill’s Fair Rents (Scotland) Bill – to help stabilise rent and ensure increases were fair and reasonable. Double inflation rent hikes each year in Greater Glasgow and the Lothians have been unsustainable and a key driver of poverty for private renters.

Without a bold vision and ambition thousands of Scots will continue to tread water in temporary homeless accommodation or unaffordable and ill-suited private lets. People need homes now.