Leader: ‘It appears to be a win-win situation’

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THE chronic lack of affordable housing in Edinburgh is nothing new.

For years as the Capital’s house prices and rents have soared, there have been warnings coupled with an ever-growing number of families priced out of the market.

The economic collapse has done little to help the situation as homes simply remain empty – not being sold for a loss and not providing a home for a family. Indeed, there are currently nearly 1500 homes which have been lying empty for more than six months.

Today, we report how Edinburgh is set to receive the largest chunk of government cash in Scotland for an empty homes loan fund. It will see £750,000 ploughed into the Capital to enable 70 private properties to be refurbished and then let out as affordable housing – providing the owners agree, of course – for at least five years.

It appears to be a win-win situation and we will watch with interest how the scheme works in practice and ultimately how many private owners decide to sign up.

Measures such as these may seem like a drop in the ocean towards tackling the overall problem of good quality and affordable housing in the Capital, but it all helps and such imaginative projects should be encouraged.

At the same time, they must go hand in hand with new building programmes and measures to ensure developers are held to promises to create a certain percentage of cheaper housing in new-build estates.

Ultimately, we need to make sure that when house prices begin to soar again, we do not simply have to go back to the affordable housing drawing board.

Bear necessity

LONG before the tourists flocked to see pandas, Edinburgh Zoo had another superstar bear.

Wojtek, the Nazi-fighting brown bear and pride of the Polish army, lived out his days in the Capital after his brave service during the Second World War which saw him carry boxes of live shells from lorries to gun emplacements during battles.

Now there are moves to honour him with a bronze statue in Princes Street Gardens as part of a long- running campaign.

It sounds like a great idea and one we hope gathers support so more people can learn about this incredible animal and his links with the Capital.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Wojtek’s death and a fitting time to honour him. You never know, his statue may end up becoming a tourist attraction itself.