City must free up land to avert a housing crisis

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HANDING over free land to developers for new housing projects would create more than 7000 new homes, according to new report by housing chiefs.

The Edinburgh economy would also benefit from a jobs boost and greater investment from land being freed up for new family homes. Housing chiefs are investigating a range of ways to kick-start new projects and revive stalled sites including areas along the Waterfront and Craigmillar Parc.

Disused former schools which are still to be sold are also expected to be among those sites city leaders are keen to see developed.

Among the key options being considered is handing over land to firms on the condition that the costs will be paid at a later date. City leaders said a number of house builders were keen to get projects under way but were in many cases unable to pay large sums for land up front. In 2011/2012 there were 1558 new affordable homes for approved for development in Edinburgh – the largest number of new affordable homes since 2004.

It also marked the first time the number of new approvals had even come close to the estimated 1,600 affordable homes needed every year for the next ten years to prevent a major housing crisis.

Around 4,200 homes could be developed on land managed by the Edinburgh City Council-owned housing firm EDI, including sites in Craigmillar and the Waterfront.

A further 3000 could be built on smaller sites such as closed schools. Around 750 of these would be on 15 small sites with space for around 50 homes on each. Many are likely to be housing association or priced at affordable rates.

Cammy Day, the city’s housing leader, said: “We have had land lying barren for years in many areas and we need to use this to help solve the dire need for housing that we are experiencing in this city. The problem is the initial land value. We need to be innovative in the current climate to get these projects off the ground and that might mean saying let’s free up the land now.”

In June officials estimated that for every 200 extra homes valued at an average of £125,000, around 310 jobs would be created.

Concerns have been raised about over handing over free land to developers.

Maggie Chapman, Green councillor for Leith Walk, said the was right to look at new ways of investing in affordable housing, but urged caution in the way it is pursued.

She said: “I want to make sure we get long-lasting benefit from it, so that 20 years from now, we are not lamenting the loss of land with supposed affordable homes quickly vanishing into the private market.”