Residents are being failed on housing - Adam McVey
Ramping up house building is difficult. The investment required is high, the constraints to make progress are numerous – including Brexit impact on construction skills – and some of the biggest issues affecting the supply of houses have required new legislation like on regulating short-term lets.
It takes focus, determination and leadership to shift the dial and tackle the problem, and even then progress can be slow.
The SNP will always prioritise investment in new house building and existing council homes and will support any action to achieve this. In this year’s Council budget, we fought hard against the joint Labour, Tory and LibDem plan to cancel £1.3billion of council house investment.
This means thousands of new council homes will not be built, consigning the city to another generation of housing shortages. We pleaded with the administration parties not to kill the council house building programme and offered our full support without qualification to keep the pipeline on track. Our offer was rejected and promises of “working together” have never materialised.
In May 2022 Edinburgh had the strongest affordable house building programme in the entire country. Now in the first year of the Labour, Tory, LibDem alliance we’ve seen new affordable homes shrink by 41 per cent.
This again will have a devastating impact on Edinburgh’s ability to meet our housing needs, leaving residents priced out of their communities. The most remarkable element was that those supposedly in charge of the city were surprised by this failure and argued this failure is nothing to do with them.
On existing council houses too, we’re seeing near record numbers of empty properties. There are now around 1500 council houses empty. That’s 1500 families experiencing homelessness or in temporary (often unsuitable) accommodation while existing council houses are simply empty, awaiting repair. This has got almost 10 per cent worse in the last year despite more broken promises that the number would be reduced.
On short-term lets, Edinburgh has gone from being robust and clear to an utter mess on Labour’s watch. A new licensing regime will help make sure that all short-term lets are approved and any that don’t have a licence again revert to being residential homes.
When so many properties have been taken out of the housing market it’s perplexing why Labour (albeit briefly) bowed to Tory pressure to argue for another delay of the implementation of this vital policy.
The policy committee for short-term lets is chaired by a Liberal Democrat and the approvals and enforcement committee is chaired by a Tory as part of the Labour-led administration. Even so, we’re delighted the SNP Government rejected Labour’s calamitous flip flop.
I wish we could find a glimmer of hope. This shouldn’t be a party political issue - it’s far too important. The failure of the current administration has swiftly undone years of progress in a matter of months, and it will take years to get Edinburgh back on track.
The SNP will continue to fight for progress, it’s in our DNA. We’ll work with anyone to help undo the damage being done but it’s worrying that the council’s march to ending poverty seems to be in full retreat.