Edinburgh has become the first city in Scotland to declare an official housing emergency, amid a growing number of homeless people, a shortage of social rented accommodation and soaring rents in the private sector.
Councillors voted by 51 to nine to back a cross-party motion proposed by housing convener Jane Meagher following calls from charities and other organisations, including Shelter Scotland. The motion called for more funding from the Scottish Government, as well as co-operation with outside organisations to build an emergency action plan to tackle the Capital’s housing crisis.
Edinburgh currently has around 5,000 homeless households living in temporary accommodation, the highest number in Scotland. There are about 200 bids for each socially-rented home advertised through Edindex and the city has the highest private-sector rental inflation in the UK.
Councillor Meagher said despite the council’s homelessness budget doubling over the last three years, there was now a risk the city would fail those most in need of help. She said: “Edinburgh may be a wealthy city on the surface, but we are seeing demand for homes far outstrip supply. Close to 5,000 households including many children will need to live in temporary accommodation this Christmas, because of this housing shortage.
“This is not a new challenge, but it is at the stage of breaking point. Rents are being driven up, the cost of living continues to put pressure on household bills and homelessness is rising. We have ambitious house-building plans, but we face rising construction costs as a result of inflation and difficulties securing land. This is against a backdrop of Edinburgh having the lowest proportion of homes for social rent in all of Scotland.
“By declaring a housing emergency, we hope to draw widescale attention to an issue that demands urgent and united action. Every single person deserves a warm, safe, and affordable place to call home and we can address this, if we act now.”
Edinburgh’s housing emergency was raised at First Minister’s Questions by Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, who asked if First Minister Humza Yousaf would look at targeted solutions and investment to increase housing supply in the city.
Mr Yousaf said there was “simply no getting away from the real challenge that Edinburgh council faces in relation to housing”. And he said he and his government would continue to work with the council to see "what assistance we can provide”.
Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson said Scotland as a whole faced a housing emergency, but it was at its most acute in the Capital. She said: “By acknowledging the reality of the housing emergency in Edinburgh, councillors now have licence to deliver the emergency response we need.
“There was an enormous breadth of support for today’s declaration from organisations working in housing, homelessness, and social justice in Edinburgh. People in Edinburgh are struggling through this housing emergency, and they expect action to be taken at every level of government.
“With councillors having committed to delivering a housing emergency action plan, Shelter Scotland stands ready to work with the council in its development. Councillors have taken a positive step today, but this is just the beginning of a journey which must ultimately lead to the end of the housing emergency in Edinburgh.”