Every time I hear the Council say they have an “ambitious” plan to build 20,000 affordable homes before 2027 (report, 20/04/18) I ask myself who can actually afford them and will it help the 21,000 waiting on a council house in Edinburgh?
In 2016/17 just 283 of the 1176 (24%) affordable homes built were for social rent. The remainder of the affordable housing built were simply unaffordable for many people. It was either “mid-market rent” (for households earning up to £39k!) or “Low Cost Home Ownership” (this lets people with deposits of up to 75% buy new homes at a modest discount).
Too many people in Edinburgh are being squeezed by a lack of housing and rising rents in the private sector. Edinburgh has become a city where a minority of private landlords profit from a housing crisis cash cow. Indeed, the Convenorship of the Council’s “Housing and Economy Committee” recently swapped from one of Edinburgh’s seven Councillors who happen to be a private landlord to another. I’m sure that both treat their tenants well, but Edinburgh is a city that has industrialised exorbitant rents and AirBnB type “holiday lets” whilst simultaneously presiding over a housing crisis.
The latest estimate is that up to 10,000 properties have been converted to holiday lets – with many, thanks to the Scottish Government, paying zero Council Tax or Business Rates. Somebody is making serious money out of this, and it’s not the people cleaning the properties between lets.
Labour in Edinburgh has been pushing hard for more of the affordable housing built to be for social rent. We were disappointed that as part of the City Deal our Capital will get not one penny for council housing from the ScottishGovernment and that they also cut funding for affordable housing by £3.2m.
Real change is needed. We need to stop talking about ambitious plans and start delivering a step change in social housing. Our Capital needs Council housing, so that should be our focus.