Soaring demand for housing in the Scottish Borders causing bidding wars and increasing homelessness

Too few properties to rent in the Scottish Borders is causing soaring demand and underhanded behaviour to secure housing. 

Tenants report struggling to find somewhere available to rent due to a shortage in properties available and landlords increasing rent due to lack of supply.

Housing Associations are under similar demand, and homelessness has increased according to Shelter Scotland. 

Some tenants report spending months searching and applying for private rentals, with many being involved in a bidding war with other tenants willing to pay an extra £200 per month, an investigation by ITV Border can reveal. 

Angie Nash moved to Hawick from Exeter with her husband earlier this year.

She said: "We were rent gazumped. I'd heard of mortgage gazumping and house prices gazumping but never rent.

"The person who was successful offered £200 more a month than us." 

In August 2023, Rightmove advertised only 41 properties to rent across the Scottish Borders and they were all snapped up within the month. 

Letting agent Cullen Kilshaw had 147 enquiries for two properties in Galashiels which were advertised over two days. 

Letting Agent Lauren Brown said: "When every property is like that and then has 40 or more viewings and ten or more applications, we are having to turn away so many more people than you normally would have to. There is no stock there and tenants are crying out for properties. It just becomes emotionally hard."

Housing Associations are seeing a growing trend of people who would normally rely on private rents reaching out to them for help after being unable to find somewhere to live. 

Chief Executive of Eildon Housing Nile Istephan said: "We have seen up to 100 people bid for one of our properties.

"The housing system operates as a whole. So when one sector gets squeezed, that demand just appears elsewhere. And we've certainly seen in the social rented sector lots of people that would otherwise be looking at private lets.

"So we have for every property multiples of people who are looking to live in that property and for some new build properties that can be over 100 people bidding for a single property. So we know that the demand far outstrips the supply " 

Our investigation found that demand on the private rental market and the knock-on effect to demand on social housing, also led to a rise in the number of people faced with homelessless. This was supported by evidence seen by Shelter Scotland which has reported a 3% rise in homelessness applications. 

Gordon MacRae said: "Scotland's housing emergency didn't happen overnight. It's not related to COVID. It didn't happen because of anything that's happened the last couple of years. This has been a couple of generations in the making, and we need to decide now whether we want to be the generation that ends homelessness and ends the housing emergency as we know it.

"Right now we have record numbers of homeless households, record numbers of open cases, which means that more and more people who go into the homelessness system are struggling to get back out again."

Shelter Scotland along with MSP Colin Smyth, Labour for the South of Scotland, and MP John Lamont, Conservative for Berwickshire, Roxburgh, and Selkirk, have called for more houses to be built. 

The Scottish Government Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “The Affordable Housing Supply Budget for 2023-24 is £752 million. This will be supplemented by  a £15 million contribution from the Heat in Buildings Fund as well as Charitable Bond Programme donations directed towards investment in social rented homes.

“We remain committed to making £3.5 billion available for affordable housing over the current parliamentary session as part of our ambitious plans to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032. The number of affordable homes completed in Scotland in the year to end March 2023 is the highest annual figure since 2000.”

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