Homelessness in Edinburgh: Council must not let political dogma get in the way of tackling this serious problem – Steve Cardownie

Many people will be looking forward to having Christmas dinner at home with family, but we should not lose sight of the fact that many people will be denied this “luxury” – a place to call home that is.
Edinburgh Council wants to see thousands more affordable homes built in the city (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)Edinburgh Council wants to see thousands more affordable homes built in the city (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Edinburgh Council wants to see thousands more affordable homes built in the city (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In response to a recent Freedom of Information request to Edinburgh Council, it was revealed that the length of time that people are spending in emergency accommodation has more than doubled in the last five years.

Those registering as homeless stayed an average 217 days in emergency accommodation in 2016/17 but the latest statistics for April to September of this year show that the average stay had risen to 445 days.

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The City of Edinburgh Council received nearly 30,000 social housing applications over the last three years and there were 1,718 homeless presentations between 1 October 2020 to 1 October 2021. Social housing applications peaked at 5,672, including 1,662 dependent children over the same period.

The City of Edinburgh Council has set a target of 20,000 affordable homes to be delivered over the next ten years with Councillor Kate Campbell, convener of the housing, homelessness and fair work,saying: “Our priorities are to improve temporary accommodation, eradicate rough sleeping, prevent homelessness wherever possible, and reduce the time that it takes for anyone to find settled, permanent accommodation.”

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She went on to say: “Ultimately that means building new social homes which we’re doing through our ambitious house-building programme. We are utterly determined to prevent homelessness and to support vulnerable residents as much as we possibly can. This will take time because of pressures on housing, high private rents, welfare reform and the fact that we have only 14 per cent social housing in the city, compared to a national average of 23 per cent.”

The Scottish government has pitched in, investing £37.5 million to support councils to move people into permanent, settled accommodation. It says that it has “delivered 103,000 affordable homes since 2007 and have committed to deliver a further 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, of which at least 70 per cent will be available for social rent”.

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These targets, laudable as they are, will not be easy to reach but it is absolutely imperative that they are. At present families are being forced to stay in emergency accommodation, much of which is unsuitable and which is having a serious impact on family life.

Children’s education can be detrimentally affected and relationships are being strained, many to breaking point. A home to call their own, where they are settled and can look forward to the future is not a great deal to ask. But is enough being done by Edinburgh Council to turn their fine words into action?

If Councillor Campbell is serious about tackling the homelessness problem in Edinburgh, she must be open-minded about innovative funding models that can help the council reach its goal.

This is no time to be held back by unimaginative, plodding officials or to be bound by an outdated political dogma which only adds to the problem, rather than helping to alleviate it.

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