Capital landlords could be forced to sell up for affordable housing

Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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The City of Edinburgh Council is aiming to build 20,000 affordable homes – but admits a “failure to secure sites” could pose a stumbling block.

The authority is considering taking “a more interventionist approach” to housing – including compulsory purchase orders which allow councils to force landowners to sell their properties and land.

Compulsory purchase orders are seen as a last resort in obtaining sites for housing development. The council would not acquire properties for use as affordable housing.

Kate Campbell, convener of the council’s housing and economy committee, said: “We have one of the most ambitious council-led house building programmes in the UK.

“We have committed to building, along with our housing associations partners, 20,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.

“To achieve this we must unlock much-needed land – this will mean adopting a more interventionist approach. Where needed, we will use compulsory purchase orders to deliver on our strong commitment to regeneration and building homes.”

The council has not carried out any compulsory purchase orders in relation to its housing programme in recent years. If compulsory purchase orders are approved, the council would need to pay landowners the market value for property and could be liable to pay compensation.

In a report, Paul Lawrence, the council’s executive director of place, said: “The council has compulsory purchase powers to use in situations where engagement with owners has been exhausted, where sites have stalled 
for a significant period of time and where their acquisition could lead to or unlock the delivery of homes at scale.”

The council has earmarked 12 sites that compulsory purchase orders could be used to open the door to build up to 6,000 homes.

The council’s latest assessment shows there is a demand for between 38,000 and 46,000 new homes to be built in Edinburgh over the space of 10 years – while more than 60 per cent of these are required to be affordable.

Mr Lawrence added: “Edinburgh is one of the most highly pressured housing markets in the country. Demand currently outstrips supply resulting in rents that are not affordable to people on low and moderate incomes.

“The major risk to the delivery of 20,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years is failure to secure control over housing sites.”

The Greens are calling for a shake-up to the planning system and more powers to be given to local councils.

Green housing spokesperson Cllr Susan Rae said: “The twin crisis of housing shortage and high housing costs are a major brake on Edinburgh, with massive consequences for our economy, social justice and transport, to name only three.

“To tackle those crises needs everyone pulling in the same direction, so councils and housing associations provide many more truly affordable homes.”

She added: “But it is a real problem if brownfield land that could be used for homes is being hoarded and kept off the market.

“That is why my Green MSP colleague Andy Wightman has been proposing radical measures to force land into use and to improve the planning system.

“This is too big a problem to let linger.”

David Bol, Local Democracy Reporter