Report uncovers Edinburgh’s 466 breaches of homeless B&B law
The City of Edinburgh Council breached housing legislation 466 times in the last year by placing homeless families in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation for more than the seven-day legal limit, it has been revealed.
Current laws dictate that local authorities should only place homeless families in B&Bs in emergency circumstances. Homeless families with children or pregnant women must be moved from B&Bs within seven days.
However, figures obtained under freedom of information law by investigative journalist platform The Ferret, and published in tandem with the Sunday National, show that 598 families were put in B&Bs from September 2017 to September 2018.
As many as 466 families – 79% of the total – spent eight days or more in B&B accommodation. Almost a third spent more than a month in B&Bs and one in five were there for over six weeks. Eight families were not moved by the council for more than three months.
Many of the B&Bs have been criticised as substandard, over-crowded and unsuitable for children.
However the figures also revealed that the council has failed to keep this promise.
A total of 199 families were accommodated in B&Bs in the period from June to September.
Of those 70% – 139 families – were there for more than the seven-day legal limit. Almost one in five were there for more than a month.
Spending on temporary accommodation in Edinburgh is the highest in Scotland at over £190 million over the last five years. The number of people in temporary accommodation rose 89% from 661 households in 2010 to 1,246 in 2017, the highest rise by far in the country.
The council has acknowledged the crisis and claims it is struggling to address problems due to the combined pressures of rising rents, intense demand and the introduction of the benefit cap in January.
It said it was making some progress with only 17 families in B&Bs as of 23 November, and the average wait to be moved reducing steadily from six weeks.
Councillor Kate Campbell, housing convener for City of Edinburgh Council, told The Ferret: “We made a pledge of having no families in bed and breakfasts by the time the task force reported because there is no number we could aim for other than zero. We haven’t managed to meet that pledge yet but we will keep working towards it.”
The council has increased funding for a private sector leasing scheme and brought on 30 more council flats to use as temporary accommodation for families, with more available in coming weeks, Ms Campbell added.
It is also working to provide more mid-market rent homes, 50% of which will be prioritised for homeless families. The council is also negotiating with registered social landlords to identify more options.
“Ultimately though we need more homes,” Campbell said, adding that it plans to build 20,000 over 10 years. “We are attacking this from every angle but, because of the extremely pressured housing market, the cost of privately rented homes and the shortage of social housing in the city it’s very difficult.
“The number of families, and the length of time they are spending in B&B, has come down. We won’t give up until that number is zero.”