Councillor Whyte is absolutely correct to raise the issue of homelessness in his opinion column (18/12/17). In every single report I have given to Community Council meetings in my Ward I have been clear that, together with dealing with the problems we face in social care, homelessness is the number one challenge we face in our Capital.
In my own Ward, I have been supporting a young mother who became homeless due to relationship breakdown. She now lives with her sister – 3 adults and 3 children share a two bedroom flat in Oxgangs. The stress of this is impacting on her mental health and her ability to hold on to her job and look after her child. Despite being classed as homeless, she can expect to wait two years for a home – hundreds of people are ahead of her on the waiting list.
Whilst relationship breakdown accounts for 18% of homelessness in Scotland, Councillor Whyte is wrong to suggest welfare reforms implemented by his Tory chums in the UK Government are not also a driver. The acute shortage of affordable housing is being intensified by Tory welfare policy. As CRISIS puts it: “welfare reform has been making both private landlords and housing associations more risk averse with regard to letting to households in receipt of benefits.”
In Scotland, where recorded homelessness is far higher than in England, even if the SNP Government hits their targets and so manages to reverse the decline in new social housing they have presided over, CRISIS say that will only “slow-down” the rise in homelessness.
This context is why homelessness in Edinburgh is such a priority and triggered the Council setting up a cross-party “Task Force” (yes, I know) to deal with it. If Councillor Whyte is to serve on it alongside Cllr Cammy Day (Labour), Cllr Robert Aldridge (Lib Dem), Cllr Susan Rae (Green), and a SNP representative, however, he will first have to acknowledge his party’s contribution to the problem.
Perhaps then he can undo another harmful Tory policy, and suggest we start buying back council housing as it comes on the market.