​Perhaps the Scottish Government should declare a housing emergency ​​​​​​​ - Susan Dalgety

Edinburgh Council has declared a housing emergency. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.Edinburgh Council has declared a housing emergency. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.
Edinburgh Council has declared a housing emergency. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.
Edinburgh’s housing statistics are shocking. There are around 7000 people living in temporary accommodation, including 2000 children.

​There are 200 bids for each social rented home that becomes available. And the city’s rent inflation at 13.7 per cent is the highest in the UK, beating even London.

Ordinary working families can’t afford to move; first time buyers on the average salary can’t afford to buy; and young people living at home with their parents can’t afford to rent a flat.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For some, Edinburgh is a city of grand designs with ‘exceptional’ town houses in the New Town on offer for around £3 million and ‘rarely available’ garden apartments in Newington a snip at half a million. But for many, even renting a small one-bedroom flat in Dalry is out of reach. Buying a two or three-bedroom family home is but a distant dream.

Little wonder, then, that the city council has just declared a housing emergency. Edinburgh is the first city in Scotland to do so, but it can’t be long before others follow suit.

Some critics have suggested the crisis motion, passed at the council last week, is nothing more than a gimmick and that it will have no impact. But that is to miss the point entirely.

By declaring a housing emergency, Edinburgh city councillors have hit the headlines. Scottish government ministers will be less likely to ignore the issue if it is splashed across every newspaper and on the teatime news. As the city’s housing convener Jane Meagher said last week, “if it is now acknowledged as an emergency, it focuses that conversation.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Scottish government will no doubt point to their “Ending Homelessness Together” action plan as proof of their good intentions, but Edinburgh’s housing crisis is in danger of spiralling out of control. And the government’s rent cap, promoted by the Scottish Green party, appears to have made matters worse. So what now?

Perhaps it is time for the Scottish Government to follow suit and declare a national housing emergency, because while the situation in Edinburgh is particularly bad, it is not much better in other parts of the country.

Decades of little or no investment in social housing combined with the cost-of-living crisis and soaring housing costs have created an intolerable situation.

The market alone is not the answer. Where I live in Edinburgh there is an abundance of high-rise student accommodation, offering everything from on-site gyms to free parking.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Imagine being a nineteen-year-old retail worker walking past one of these well-appointed city centre blocks with their en-suite studios, and knowing that you haven’t got a hope in hell of leaving home, unless your mum wins the lottery.

Or a single mum with two kids, facing Christmas in cramped temporary accommodation, knowing the chances of getting a social rented flat are almost as low as winning the lottery.

What Scotland needs is a national housing action plan that is imaginative and bold. In the 1950s, the then-Tory Prime Minster Harold McMillan presided over a massive increase in council housing. Councils were allowed to borrow money at very cheap rates to build as many houses as they could.

Being bold worked then, surely it could work now?

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.