Drive to address Edinburgh’s housing emergency

Drive to address Edinburgh’s housing emergency

The City of Edinburgh Council has published an initial draft of an action plan as it works towards tackling growing homelessness in the capital.

After officially declaring a housing emergency earlier this month – in recognition of close to 5,000 households now facing homelessness against a shortage of affordable housing – the beginnings of a 25-point Housing Emergency Action Plan will be considered by the council’s Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee on Tuesday.

The plan proposes the council turns void homes around more quickly and spot purchases ‘off the shelf’ homes, to increase affordable housing supply at pace at a time when construction costs have risen exponentially. If agreed, a more detailed strategy featuring costings and specific targets will be created and brought to a full council meeting in February, with input from industry and voluntary organisations from across the city.

It comes as Glasgow City Council followed suit and formally declared a housing emergency yesterday. Argyll and Bute Council did so earlier this year.

Councillor Jane Meagher, Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work convener, said: “We’re truly at a point where urgent, united action must be taken to do right by the most vulnerable in our city.

“Thousands of people in Edinburgh are finding themselves with their lives on hold as they live through the hugely stressful reality of losing their home. Every night, close to 5,000 households are now sleeping in temporary accommodation in this city, wondering when and indeed if they will receive the security of a permanent place to live.

“Having a home is a basic human right and by highlighting the issue we’re determined to do everything within our means to address it. We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the third sector and industry which gives me great confidence that we can work together to improve the situation and clearly Glasgow is in a similar position. We need to address this issue as a city and nationally at all levels of council and government.

“Despite our success with our partners building close to 7,000 new affordable homes since 2017/18 and having almost 2,000 under construction right now, plus very positive work with the third sector in preventing homelessness, the cost of living crisis means that demand for affordable housing is far outstripping supply. The added pressure of rising construction costs and reduced budgets mean we need to think differently. I hope this action plan forms the basis of what will become a wider city plan.”

The Homeless Action Plan will be considered by a committee alongside a series of housing reports which draw attention to the scale of Edinburgh’s housing challenges and opportunities to create more housing, if the funding required to achieve significant change is found.

The Strategy for Purchasing Land and Homes to Meet Affordable Housing Need demonstrates the success the council has had delivering new homes despite challenging market conditions, which includes the delivery of 1,425 new council homes and a further 508 currently under construction. This has been possible through creative working, including for example the council purchasing the old Liberton Hospital site directly from NHS Lothian.

The annual Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) reveals a pipeline of over 11,000 new affordable and social homes could be possible through partnership working in Edinburgh over the next five years, but that would require Scottish Government grant funding of almost £900 million (based on current market costs), or almost four times Edinburgh’s current grant funding allocation for affordable housebuilding. Further work will take place with our Registered Social Landlord partners to understand the impact of the housing emergency to them and tenants, to work together to achieve next steps.

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