Increasing rent arrears and homelessness across Ross & Cromarty gave local councillors cause for concern at yesterday’s Highland Council area meeting in Dingwall.
The situation has largely been blamed on the introduction of Universal Credit.
Councillor Angela Maclean said Dingwall Citizen’s Advice Bureau had seen a massive increase in work since the introduction of Universal Credit.
She said: “Another factor is that private landlords were now deciding to sell their properties, making families homeless.”
Councillor Ian Cockburn said Wester Ross and Lochalsh were not part of the Universal Credit roll-out but had seen a huge jump rent arrears, bigger than other areas.
He said: “We’re moving into a disaster area. People are being forced into this, they were told it would be better but their benefits have been cut. There is something far wrong and I suggest that this committee asks council to take this to Westminster. The problem is serious.”
Councillor Margaret Paterson said people were being forced into endless debt and asked if there was any more that could be done.
She said: “It’s a trap, it ends up you can’t cope with it and are in a catch-22 you can never get out of.”
North housing manager Jim Holden said: “There is severe pressure on the council’s housing stock with the changing circumstances of people’s lives, and the financial pressure isn’t helped by Universal Credit.
“We have £600,000 in unpaid rent, not just due to Universal Credit, and I wouldn’t take any bets on what it will be next year.
“We have engineered change in homelessness provision by using our own housing stock rather than B&Bs, and we have a large housing programme in years to come with provision targeted at homeless people.
“We are also making better use of the housing stock with a downsizing policy and encouraging people to move to more appropriate properties to make better use of the housing stock that we have.”