Craig Sanderson: Social housing RIP?

Craig Sanderson: Social housing RIP?

Craig Sanderson

Time for another of Craig Sanderson’s self-proclaimed “frequent rants” about the use of the word ‘affordable’ to describe housing project proposals.

Despite efforts by the City of Edinburgh Council and housing associations, the lack of supply of new homes for social rent (i.e. truly ‘affordable’) in the capital remains palpable.

In 2020, the Edinburgh Poverty Commission in its report A Just Capital in September that year justified doubling this annual target.

The actual numbers of completions of new homes for social rent in Edinburgh have since been 252, 247 and 450 in 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 respectively.

An article in Scottish Housing News 30th August 2023 headed ‘Edinburgh approves New Town mixed-use development’ described proposals approved by the council to redevelop Centrum House, 108 - 114 & 116 Dundas Street to provide 49 new homes, “of which 25% will be affordable“.

None of the 12 ‘affordable’ homes will be for social rent – all will be for mid-market rent.

This is the latest example of a planning approval despite an ‘informative’ (aka an expectation) of the council that 70% of new ‘affordable’ housing development will be for social rent: affordable-housing (

In the interests of being able to ‘track’ more effectively progress towards achievement of the Scottish Government’s target of some 70000 new homes for social rent being completed by 2032, the writers of headings and articles could be more specific and accurate in their reporting.

But I suspect for a range of reasons they won’t.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government continues to assert that it will meet the said target while its own announcements would tend to suggest otherwise.

Check out this article from this week which evidences not only a significant number of completions for social rent but also a disturbing drop in the number of new starts and approvals: Annual affordable home completions reach 23-year high.

These are figures for the whole of Scotland but one can assume that the situation in Edinburgh is relatively worse than elsewhere.

Yet the ‘flood’ (a term used by a councillor at a recent meeting) of applications to develop Purpose Build Student Accommodation (PBSA) continue to arrive and get approved, along with Build to Rent (BTR) proposals.

Both offer more new accommodation without needing public subsidy/investment from the Scottish Government’s Affordable Housing Budget.

BTR rents are lower than market equivalents thanks to contributions to costs from the developer or its funder.

But these ‘intermediate‘ rents are still higher than mid-market rents and much higher than social rents – and therefore unaffordable to those who need secure and adequate accommodation most.

Nevertheless, the private developers’ spin becomes ever more astute.

These two articles have appeared this week. PLATFORM_ tops out Edinburgh build to rent development and Transformation of Leith continues with Ocean Point planning submission.

Again, no new homes for social rent in an area where there is a desperate need for it.

As always, thanks for listening and comments welcome.

  • Craig Sanderson is a former chief executive of Link Housing and a member of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission
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