Edinburgh calls on short-term lets to switch to tackling homelessness

Having successfully used short-term lets during the COVID-19 crisis to provide housing for people facing homelessness, the City of Edinburgh Council is now calling on the sector to help the city tackle homelessness long-term.

Edinburgh calls on short-term lets to switch to tackling homelessness

The Scottish Government’s has decided to delay the re-opening of short-term lets where properties share stairwells and front doors with other people’s homes.

Under the latest lockdown restrictions, holiday lets with shared facilities – including communal entrances, stairs and landings – are not allowed to re-open. Landlords are being asked to consider moving properties back into residential use or renting their properties to the council instead.

The call comes with a warning from council leaders that enforcement action will be taken against landlords who break the Scottish Government’s rules or re-open in a later phase without permission to operate, as part of the council’s continued efforts to clamp down on unregulated properties. Even during lockdown, planning enforcement has resulted in three properties being discontinued as short-term lets. The cases at North Castle Street, Craiglockhart Avenue and Drumdryan Street were upheld by the Scottish Government reporter and a further five cases are pending consideration.

It also comes as the council publishes a report into its support for people experiencing homelessness, for consideration by elected members on July 9. Highlighting the scale of the city’s emergency response, the report confirms 360+ rooms in up to 14 hotels and B&Bs have been helping people off the streets and into safe places to stay. This is alongside work to enlist more than 30 new properties into the council’s Private Sector Leasing scheme with Link Housing.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “I want to see us work with rather than against landlords to make the rental market fairer on everybody who lives here. As we recover from this pandemic, we have a real opportunity to work together. We can jointly support our city’s most vulnerable residents and return properties to their rightful purpose as homes.

“During lockdown, with our partners, we’ve successfully brought a number of short-term let properties back into residential use to help us house people experiencing homelessness. This has been really positive for all involved and we need to continue to build on this going forward. We face a huge challenge housing people who need it, and we’re saying strongly and clearly that landlords running short-term lets from residential without permission should stop and move their property back into residential use. This can be part of the solution.

“However, as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we also need to be clear that we will take action if required. With the health risks associated with COVID-19, it is absolutely vital that all forms of accommodation are properly managed and that those with shared facilities remain closed following government guidance. We welcome this decision and short-term let operators who fail to comply with these regulations or operate without permission should be aware that it will be a priority for us to take any enforcement action available to us.”

Cammy Day, depute leader, said: “Many private landlords continue to be affected financially due to empty properties and public health measures and will be taking steps to claim mortgage payment holidays. But landlords who use the Link Housing scheme are protected with guaranteed money, irrespective of whether the tenant pays their rent or if the property is empty through no fault of their own.

“We certainly can’t and we shouldn’t go back to the situation we were in before, where much needed properties for people to live in were wrongly being used as poorly-managed holiday lets. Now, more than ever, Edinburgh needs these properties back as homes.

“We’ve done an incredible amount of work to get to where we are now but we urgently need access to more housing. Property owners have the chance to give back to the city in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. Let’s switch holiday lets for housing and help our citizens facing homelessness.”

To further support the housing challenge of supporting people experiencing homelessness, work is also ramping up to build a record number of 10,000 affordable by 2022. This work is being undertaken by the council with housing associations, with additional safety measures in place to enable construction sites to re-open and get back on track.

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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