Edinburgh Council’s failure to tackle housing crisis means goal of ending poverty is another fantasy – John McLellan

Against the backdrop of inflation reaching over 11 per cent, the report on poverty in Edinburgh presented to councillors today makes for grim reading.

Building more affordable houses is vital to tackling poverty (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)
Building more affordable houses is vital to tackling poverty (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2021, the incomes of around 79,000 people in Edinburgh, 25 per cent of the population, were below the poverty threshold, including 15,000 children. Higher food and energy costs in 2022 have meant 73 per cent of low-income Scottish families going without essentials like food or heat.

The poverty threshold is not easy to define because it’s not an amount of money or a percentage of income, and campaigners are keen to abandon references to “relative poverty”, so numbers become almost irrelevant. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which led the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, defines it as “when a person’s resources (mainly their material resources) are not sufficient to meet their minimum needs (including social participation)” so the threshold actually changes from person to person.

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What hasn’t changed is the contribution rising housing costs make to hardship, and today’s report quotes data from Citylets showing average private rents for two-bedroom homes in Edinburgh have risen 18 per cent this year.

Landlords are facing higher costs too, and the recent introduction of a rent cap will do nothing to increase supply, the only sustainable way to tackle rising prices. The Edinburgh Poverty Commission identified addressing the housing shortage as the single most important measure, and today’s report notes that 247 new social rented homes were built in the last year. At that rate, Edinburgh’s goal of ending poverty by 2030 is another fantasy.