Housing Crisis Fund needed to reduce homelessness in the capital - Miles Briggs

Two summers ago, I wrote in this paper about how Edinburgh was set to receive £233.8 million in funding over the next five years to boost the number of homes in the city.
Miles Briggs says a new fund could deliver new homes for EdinburghMiles Briggs says a new fund could deliver new homes for Edinburgh
Miles Briggs says a new fund could deliver new homes for Edinburgh

I said at the time that the 7.3 per cent of the total £3.2 billion affordable housing budget for Scottish councils allocated to Edinburgh was not enough, given Edinburgh has 8.8 per cent of Scotland’s population. I was right then and I am right now.

The level of homelessness in Scotland is now at its highest in more than a decade, with numbers exceeding those prior to the pandemic. In Edinburgh, we have witnessed a 28 per cent increase in homeless households in the past year. Recent figures reveal that there are now 10,000 children in temporary accommodation – a quarter of whom are in Edinburgh. This is an outrage.

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The country is struggling to tackle a housing and homeless crisis that is pushing people to the brink at a time where additional income is difficult to come by. Clearly, a national-level approach is not working. This is why I am calling on the Scottish Government to establish an Edinburgh-specific housing fund: a housing fund designed to combat the very unique problems faced by the Capital.

If we are going to help address the housing crisis then that starts with the SNP-Green government challenging all housing sectors to come together to deliver new homes – from our housing associations to developing more sustainable tenancies with the private rental sector.

I met with the SNP housing minister, Paul McLennan, recently to air my concerns around the issue and to discuss the severity of the situation in Edinburgh. But it seems to me that there has been far too much in the way of talking and far too little in the way of action on the ground.

For two years now I have criticised the SNP-Green government for sticking its head in the sand where homelessness is concerned – the situation facing many of our fellow citizens has been getting worse and worse with no recognition in Government of the specific challenges facing Edinburgh. The promise was to eradicate homelessness by 2026, but with three years to go this looks like more of a pipe dream without renewed priority being given at all levels of Government.

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Housing is consistently among the highest priorities among voters in Scotland, yet the government’s lack of focus and lack of action relegates the issue to a side project. It is high time that the government listens to voters and addresses the concerns of the population, and nowhere is this more crucial than in Edinburgh.

It is all very well blaming the increase in homelessness on the cost-of-living crisis and a continuing fallout from the pandemic, but when the government housing budget is being slashed by almost £180m it becomes apparent that the SNP and Greens aren’t taking the issue as seriously as they should be, with devastating consequences.

The SNP claimed in 2021 that “Everyone should have a safe, warm, affordable home”. I agree. That’s why it’s time for an Edinburgh specific housing crisis fund and a cross-sector housing plan to be developed and delivered for the Capital.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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