This week Edinburgh faces a critical decision about its future. Councillors meet on Thursday to decide how to implement the city’s Local Development Plan.
The reports considered by elected members may seem like dusty tomes to many people but the decisions politicians take will help shape the future prosperity of Edinburgh and its people.
Modern cities cannot succeed without meeting their housing needs but production in Scotland has fallen by more than 40 per cent since the start of the economic downturn. Demonstrating the scale of the problem, less than 15,000 new homes were completed last year. This is a staggering 20,000 short of the 35,000 new homes the Scottish Government wished to see being built by 2015 in order to meet demand and tackle house price inflation. Edinburgh itself has a projected shortfall of 6000 homes in the coming years, and delivering them is essential for the future of the nation’s capital.
The availability of affordable homes is critical to creating cities where the jobs and the people are in close proximity creating the right ingredients for growth and success. I strongly believe that Edinburgh has this week a chance to grasp the challenge of identifying land to deliver the future homes for families so badly needed in the city.
Local councils in south-east Scotland have worked well together to share out much of Edinburgh’s housing demand, but despite the best efforts of all involved, sites still have to be found in the city for its own needs. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand how difficult those decisions can be. Despite the fact that we all live in homes that were built on a field that was once someone’s view, allocating new land for housing is fraught with difficulties as residents understandably seek to protect their own “back yard”.
However, planners and politicians aren’t just there to take the easy decisions, rather they have to focus on taking the right decisions for the right reasons. And there can be no better cause than ensuring that Edinburgh has the homes it needs for its people and to fuel its future growth. Two major factors make it vital that this week sees a breakthrough on housing in Edinburgh.
Firstly, homes need to be affordable. Rationing homes would be completely illogical in a city where the price of homes is already high. All that would happen is that more families would leave the city, driven out by ever increasing house price inflation. Without families, other services would undoubtedly be badly affected, and Edinburgh would suffer the kind of house price inflation that could easily lead to boom and bust.
Secondly, Edinburgh is a powerhouse of the Scottish economy, but growing the economy depends on having enough people available for the jobs being created, and again that means having more homes. A lack of housing will create a drag on Edinburgh’s growth as labour supply limits the city’s potential to attract new investment and companies.
Whilst it is for the council to decide which sites are best placed for building homes, on behalf of all those looking for a new home in our capital city I would make the plea that enough sites are selected to meet the housing need that the council itself has identified.
Edinburgh needs more homes for families; people want to live in Edinburgh and delivering affordable homes is one of the highest duties placed on any council.
I strongly urge the council to make sure it does all it can to help plan for a better future, and for an Edinburgh where its people can live happily in well-planned and well-built communities.
• Sandy Adam is chair of Homes for Scotland.