Callum Chomczuk: Edinburgh’s housing market is broken

Young people are struggling to get on the housing ladder. Picture: Jane Barlow
Young people are struggling to get on the housing ladder. Picture: Jane Barlow
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The aspiration of young people and people on lower incomes to have their own home is being failed by the Capital’s broken housing market.

Home ownership is increasingly out of reach, with young people expected to save large deposits in order to access mortgage finance. The average house price in Edinburgh topped £261,000 last month and first-time buyers at the lower end of the market can expect to pay an average of £142,000 for a one-bedroom flat.

Callum Chomczuk is deputy director of the Chartered Institute of Housing

Callum Chomczuk is deputy director of the Chartered Institute of Housing

Analysis of popular letting platform Airbnb shows that of the 9638 homes listed in September last year, 57 per cent were available as entire homes, not just spare rooms being let out. This conversion of residential homes into holiday lets can be detrimental to communities, push prices up and reduce the options available for people who want to live and work in Edinburgh.

And the problem is not just about access to home ownership – the proportion of young households (aged 16-34) living in the private rented sector in Edinburgh has grown steadily from 31 per cent in 1999/2000 to 59 per cent in 2016. The average cost of renting privately in Edinburgh has now reached £740 per month for a one-bedroom home or £956 for two bedrooms.

The rising cost of housing in the private rented sector and cuts to benefits for private renters mean that many are struggling to afford the essentials and risk eviction if they can’t keep up with rental payments. Last year 637 16-24 year olds presented as homeless in the Capital.

For decades, we have failed to build enough new and affordable homes to meet the needs of young people.

This is being partly addressed through the current Scottish Government capital programme. However, it takes time to undo years of under capacity, and as such, the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” is getting bigger all the time.

For many young people, a home of their own is a distant dream. However we need politicians to meet the housing aspirations of young people; whatever their circumstance and wherever they live.

This could mean a secure tenancy for a single person who has just got their first job, an affordable flat in a city for a young professional who is beginning their career, or a young couple looking to buy their first home. Each wants to have a place they can call home. We need to focus on not simply constructing houses but building communities and homes where every one of these people might aspire to live.

To make housing more affordable we must start with building more homes of all tenures – for ownership, shared ownership, private rent, mid-market and social rent.  

Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland wants to see all parties commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation and as a start, this means at least matching the current commitment of delivering 50,000 affordable homes across Scotland through to the next Parliamentary term. If the current level of investment was maintained, it would mean funding for another 5000 affordable homes for Edinburgh from 2021.

There remain a number of structural barriers that stop us building to the scale we need, most notably the cost of land, which must be addressed.

This is no small feat, but if decision-makers respond effectively, they may be remembered as the generation that met the challenge of Scotland’s housing crisis.

Callum Chomczuk is deputy director of the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland