Although in Edinburgh we spend a lot of time complaining about the state of our roads and the timeliness of bin collections, there can be no doubt that the biggest problem we face is in housing.
Indeed, Shelter Scotland has been clear that our capital is being harmed by long-term underinvestment in affordable housing.
To combat this Edinburgh has seen a surge in the construction of homes for social rent. In 2017/18 work on 756 got underway – this is the first time the record of 639 set in 2005/06 under a Labour led Holyrood has been exceeded. This, however, is not enough.
Lack of genuinely affordable homes in Edinburgh is a real problem for the 3,316 people who presented as homeless last year – many of them mothers seeking to escape domestic abuse. Many of those that need to be housed immediately are placed in temporary accommodation for an average of 10 long months. Where this is not available, a B&B will be considered. Let’s be honest, however, some of the B&B accommodation used in Edinburgh for homeless people is not fit for human habitation.
At the start of December Shelter Scotland suggested City of Edinburgh Council’s use of B&Bs could be breaking the law and questioned Scotland’s capital’s ability to cope with homelessness. Since then the former SNP Housing Convener has denied that he ever pledged to end their use by June 2018.
Recent Evening News reports give a perspective on the tensions at play: “Edinburgh’s ‘rampant’ Airbnb growth ‘hollowing out’ city” (report 28/12/18), “With 12 of Scotland’s top 20 most expensive streets, and eight of the top 10, Edinburgh dominates the table.” (report, 29/12/18) and “Homeless families forced to live in hostels dirtier than crack dens” (report 04/12/18).
Although there is a willingness within the City Chambers to deal with homelessness, the city lacks the resources to do so. The Nationalist Government are letting AirBnB industrialise the conversion of homes to holiday lets and their rent control policy has delivered nothing for Edinburgh’s most vulnerable households. Most recently £39m of “savings” has been forced on Edinburgh by Holyrood whilst the Nationalist Government brags about not raising tax for 99% of Scots.
Edinburgh is facing a housing crisis and the SNP is not listening.