Edinburgh Council 'unlikely' to approve new grant funded affordable homes following 'massive cuts'

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Shelter Scotland said it would be “shameful” if no new social homes are approved in the coming year

Edinburgh Council says it does not expect to green light any new affordable homes for at least the next year, after £200m was slashed from the Scottish Government’s housing budget.

The cut will leave the capital £11m worse off – with anticipated central grant funding for affordable housebuilding reduced by nearly a quarter.

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The authority’s housing convener said it came as a major blow to efforts to address the city’s ‘housing emergency’ which was officially declared by councillors last year.

Cllr Jane Meagher said while a “huge part” of the situation was down to how the Scottish Government prioritised its spending the council had to “bear part of the responsibility”. 

Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “This is a direct, and entirely foreseeable, result of the Scottish Government’s decision to slash the housing budget. Photo: kaysgeog, flickrShelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “This is a direct, and entirely foreseeable, result of the Scottish Government’s decision to slash the housing budget. Photo: kaysgeog, flickr
Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “This is a direct, and entirely foreseeable, result of the Scottish Government’s decision to slash the housing budget. Photo: kaysgeog, flickr | kaysgeog

Shelter Scotland said it would be “shameful” if no new social homes are approved in Edinburgh in the coming year, adding: “We should be accelerating the delivery of social housing not slamming the breaks on.”

Anger was sparked in February as the annual budget passed at Holyrood contained a 43 per cent cut to planning and housing – resulting in around £190m less for housebuilding.

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Following this, the expected affordable housing grant funding to Edinburgh in 2024-25 fell from £45.2m to £34.2m – and the number of estimated approvals has since dropped from around 200 to 0.

“Edinburgh is unlikely to be able to approve any new grant funded affordable homes this year, and there is uncertainty about potential commitments next year,” a report going to the council’s housing committee on Tuesday, May 14, said.

Added to this is a 91 per cent increase to the cost of building an affordable home.

Cllr Meagher said while in previous years Edinburgh has been able to draw down funding for housebuilding from other local authority underspend, this was unlikely to be an option to plug the gap this year.

“The size of the pie has shrunk dramatically,” she said. 

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“The Scottish Government’s massive cuts to housing budgets is such that we think it might lead to us stopping any new approvals for house building in Edinburgh. That’s the key alarming message out of this report. 

“Unless we have certainty about, for example, next year’s housing budget we cannot make new approvals.

“It’s a major deal. At the route of the housing emergency is the lack of housing supply. That’s the route of it and all the branches extend into things like shortage of rental properties of all different kinds, and house prices.”

She added: “It’s a complicated picture but part of the picture is most certainly the Scottish Government’s decisions about how it prioritises its spending.”

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She said while the council’s decision to formally declare a housing emergency last November “hasn’t resulted in any increase in spend” she remained “optimistic”.

She said: “If there’s enough public attention paid to this as a problem, but significantly as a solution to the country’s problems I think it gains more and more traction. It will take time -but we’ll carry on making the case and fighting.”

Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “This is a direct, and entirely foreseeable, result of the Scottish Government’s decision to slash the housing budget. 

“Scotland’s housing emergency is at its most acute in Edinburgh; almost 3,000 children in the city without a home, record numbers stuck in temporary accommodation, and local homelessness services are stretched beyond breaking point. 

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“For no new social homes to be approved in Edinburgh in the coming year would be shameful; we should be accelerating the delivery of social housing not slamming the breaks on. 

“After being sworn in this morning, in the heart of Edinburgh, the new First Minister said tackling child poverty will be his ‘driving mission’; if he’s serious about that then he has to start by driving up the delivery of social homes.”

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