Edinburgh Council is being short-changed by SNP government in its fight against homelessness – Miles Briggs MSP

MSPs from all parties have signed up to the goal of ending homelessness in Scotland before the end of this new Parliament in 2026.

By Miles Briggs
Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 4:45 pm
Ending homelessness is not just about building more houses, but without more affordable homes the problem will not be solved (Picture: Niall Carson/PA)
Ending homelessness is not just about building more houses, but without more affordable homes the problem will not be solved (Picture: Niall Carson/PA)

Previously in the Evening News, I wrote about how I would like ministers to be more ambitious and end homelessness in Scotland by 2023.

The commitment to end homelessness is just empty words without the bricks and mortar of new affordable homes to back them up. Ending homelessness is not as simple as simply building more homes. However without significantly more affordable homes, this goal will not be achieved.

The Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations found that across Scotland at least 53,000 affordable homes will be needed to keep pace with demand, with 37,100 of these homes needing to be socially rented homes. This means more than 53,000 homes will need to be built over the next five years to reduce the level of homelessness in Scotland.

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The type of homes being built, their location and services made available to people will all be crucial to eliminating homelessness.

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In 2016, Edinburgh Council set itself the goal of 20,000 new affordable homes over the next 10 years. Halfway through this timeframe and 5,716 new affordable homes have been built, under a third of the homes scheduled to be built. The number of houses built last year in 2020/21, 1,087 affordable homes, was understandably lower with lockdown impacting on construction timescales.

Edinburgh faces bigger challenges than other local authorities in building affordable homes, with the cost of land being higher than other parts of Scotland. We also require more affordable homes, with higher levels of homelessness than other parts of the country and higher numbers of children in temporary accommodation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made a big difference to the number of people living in temporary accommodation.

The number of children living in temporary accommodation has increased by 560 over the last two years, with Edinburgh now making up over a fifth of the 7,900 children in temporary accommodation across Scotland.

A safe and stable home is vital for a child’s well-being and development. No child should be without a secure home and it is unacceptable that the number of children in temporary accommodation is increasing year on year under this SNP government.

Given the extra challenges that Edinburgh faces in tackling homelessness and preventing children living in temporary accommodation, it is extremely concerning that Edinburgh is yet again being short-changed by SNP ministers in funding for affordable accommodation.

Edinburgh is being allocated £234 million over the next five years, 7.3 per cent of the total budget of £3.2 billion for all local authorities over the next five years.

There are important questions to ask about why a local authority with the biggest challenges to tackling homelessness and the biggest need for affordable housing is being given lower funding per capita.

If SNP ministers are serious about ending homelessness in Scotland then the areas with the biggest need for investment must be properly funded, so that the number of affordable homes being built can outpace demand in order to start reducing the number of homeless people across Scotland.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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