Homeless ‘action plan’ bids to stop use of B&Bs in Edinburgh within five years

Housing chiefs are aiming to stop the use of B&Bs as a means of sheltering the homeless. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Housing chiefs are aiming to stop the use of B&Bs as a means of sheltering the homeless. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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HOUSING chiefs have drawn up an action plan to end homeless people being sheltered in B&Bs within five years – with a focus on prevention and developing alternative housing options.

The authority’s housing and economy committee will consider a rapid rehousing transition plan on Thursday – which outlines a range of actions and priorities the council will press ahead with so that those whom present as homeless will not need to be housed in B&B accommodation.

The ambitious strategy will require funding from central government and “attacking the problem from every angle”. Measures totalling £9.2m will be bid from the Scottish Government’s ending homelessness fund – including a feasibility study for a supported lodging scheme.

Millions more in grant funding will be required for housebuilding to meet people’s needs.

The number of homeless applications has fallen over the last ten years – but the length of time people stay in temporary accommodation is increasing in Edinburgh. The council’s formula for success is balancing the number of people presenting as homeless as the number of social homes available to homeless households – eradicating the need for temporary accommodation.

The authority is pledging to build 20,000 affordable homes over the next ten years – but currently, 70 per cent of council rental properties go to homeless households, compared to the national average of 41 per cent.

The Scottish Government, which has instructed all councils to draw up the plans, has set a host of targets – but council officers admit that “given the context and pressures of the Edinburgh housing market, it will not be possible to achieve the Scottish Government’s ambitions in full within five years.”

Cllr Kate Campbell, housing and economy convener, said: “It’s extremely challenging as we’ve only got 15 per cent social housing compared to a national average of 24 per cent – and we’ve got the most expensive private rents in the country.”

“We need to work really hard at preventing people becoming homeless and we need to keep building social homes. We also need to make sure we have the best quality temporary accommodation and the right support in place.”

She added: “We’ll keep working with the Scottish Government, housing associations and our third sector partners to make sure that we deliver on our plan.”

The plan includes a range of options that could be taken forward – with an ultimate aim to halt B&B use in five years.

The plan states: “Enabling rehousing as quickly as possible is the ambition, but given the scale of unmet need, it may take more time, beyond 2023/24, to reduce the current average waiting time of 239 days and rebalance 
supply and demand for homeless households.”

One preferred option would be to increase the supply of furnished flats, shared housing options and supported lodging – which could be a room in a private home, dramatically reducing the use of B&Bs.

The council’s strategic housing investment plan (SHIP) sets out plans for 10,500 affordable homes to be built in the next five years – dependent on the current resource planning assumptions of £45million per year continuing, but has a £77m shortfall.