Cammy Day: Edinburgh must deliver homes at fair prices

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INCREASING housing costs mean hardworking families, couples and individuals have been priced out of the private ownership market in the capital by the boom in buy-to-let and the shortage of new build homes coming on the market. These rising prices come at a time when people are already being squeezed due to falling incomes and rising food and energy bills.

The acute pressure on affordable housing in the capital is something we and our not-for-profit housing association partners have been working to address for some time. In doing so, we have managed to treble the output of affordable homes in the city in recent years and embarked on the biggest council house building programme in the country, with plans for 3,000 new homes. This is a significant achievement that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

However, it’s still not enough.

We know demand for homes continues to rise and we know we have more to do but, since the “crash” in 2008, it has been the public sector – the council, its registered social landlord partners and the Scottish Government – who have shouldered much of the burden and brought forward much-needed homes for the people of Edinburgh. The development of these modern, affordable, cheap-to-heat homes doesn’t just stop at those who end up living in them, either; their development brings with it jobs, apprenticeships and work placements, alongside community benefits for local people and income for the local economy.

We are committed to continuing this work and we have to be. The private house building market has not recovered from the crash and continues to be subsidised by the public sector through programmes such as Help to Buy. It is questionable whether the private sector will ever be able to deliver the quantity of homes Edinburgh needs at prices that people can afford.

We need a more strategic response by the house building industry, one that works with the successful public sector partnerships and brings forward brownfield sites for development more quickly and delivers the homes people in Edinburgh need. We’re doing all we can but cannot do it on our own.

The risk or downside to economic growth in the housing market is that when house prices rise it inevitably prices out many households in society, pulling up the ladder on the majority with moderate to low incomes.

The council and its not-for-profit partners have stepped up to tackle this thorny subject and we now call for the private sector to do the same; to work with us to find innovative solutions, to play its part by developing homes more quickly and to focus on the delivery of an increased number of homes at prices people can really afford.

Cammy Day is housing leader at Edinburgh City Council