Edinburgh is facing a housing crisis. Our Capital has 1,609 households in temporary accommodation, too much of which is of a very poor standard. With only 20,000 council houses in the city, we have 21,000 people on the waiting list for one.
In the past few weeks two rough sleepers died on our streets and we know that in 2015/16 at least 18 homeless people died in Edinburgh. Worst of all, “affordable” houses are being built in Edinburgh which are simply not affordable to the people we rely on most – care workers, nurses and teachers. All of this should shame us.
It is within that context that I was delighted last month that Richard Leonard managed to force Nicola Sturgeon to pledge to halt evictions over the winter period. This week Edinburgh’s Labour councillors will back a plan that will develop a Council policy on winter evictions rather than wait for Nicola Sturgeon to “get on with her day job”.
This is just the start of Labour’s plans to tackle homelessness. Last week I proposed that the council should start systematically buying back council houses and at the weekend Richard Leonard promised to bring forward a Mary Barbour Law (report, 13/03/18).
This has the aim of regulating the minority of private landlords who seek to exploit their tenants by providing overpriced poor quality accommodation.
The Mary Barbour law will regulate the private rented sector to ensure that no one is forced to rent a home that pushes them into poverty or falls below the standards needed to protect their physical and mental health and well-being.
Fundamental to this is the belief that a home is a basic human right and that it is a government’s obligation to guarantee that everyone can live in security, peace, and dignity. Right now the SNP is simply failing too many people on this obligation and that’s why Labour will act.
If Labour can achieve this in opposition, just imagine what we can do if we are given a chance to govern.