SNP-Green government needs to realise Edinburgh's housing crisis is a special case – Miles Briggs

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This week at the Scottish Parliament, I met with the new minister for housing, Paul McLennan MSP, to discuss the housing crisis in Scotland.

The creation of a dedicated minister covering this issue is something that I have previously called for and I am pleased that the role has been created. Housing is such a central part of any government’s agenda, and did not get the attention that it needed under previous SNP Cabinet Secretaries.

During the meeting, I took the opportunity to highlight several Edinburgh-specific challenges and the need for an Edinburgh-specific approach to build enough affordable homes and reduce the level of homelessness in the Capital. Across Scotland, the number of affordable homes approved has fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade and the number of new affordable homes being built is on the slide.

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Shockingly, SNP-Green ministers decided to slash almost £180 million from this year’s housing budget. Shelter Scotland said: “We are deeply concerned at the significant 16 per cent cut to the housing budget in 2023/24, which has the potential to completely derail the Scottish Government’s ability to reduce housing need in this parliamentary term.”

Far too few homes are being built across communities in Scotland, with Edinburgh facing more challenges than other local authorities. The number of homes being built, as well as the quality of the current housing stock are both serious concerns.

During a members debate in parliament last week on the level of damp and mould in homes across Scotland, I was staggered by the number of Edinburgh MSPs in attendance who talked about the number of their constituents who have problems with damp and mould. Inadequate repairwork to remove and prevent damp is one of the main reasons why the problem is so prevalent.

Across Edinburgh, approximately 100 damp and mould surveys are carried out every month. Poor housing can have a severe impact on people’s mental and physical health, which also increases demand on our health service.

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Having enough homes available for people in Edinburgh is integral to reducing the level of homelessness across the Capital. I have previously commented in the Evening News about the goal of eradicating homelessness and rough-sleeping by the end of this parliament in 2026. Sadly, under the previous Cabinet Secretary for the portfolio, Shona Robison, the situation in Edinburgh only escalated and solutions have not been forthcoming.

Temporary accommodation is not a long-term solution to the housing crisis (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA)Temporary accommodation is not a long-term solution to the housing crisis (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Temporary accommodation is not a long-term solution to the housing crisis (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA)

At the beginning of this week, the Evening News reported on 40 homeless deaths in the city in 2022, compared to an estimated 21 homeless deaths in 2019. The challenges facing Edinburgh Council are extensive, with the city having a quarter of all children in Scotland living in temporary accommodation. The number of homeless applications is rising at record levels and Edinburgh has a record-high number of live homelessness applications, at 6,198.

The catalogue of failures to reduce the level of homelessness in the Capital is why I have repeatedly called for SNP-Green ministers to declare a homelessness emergency. They must find an Edinburgh-specific solution, which I have been calling on them to do for the last seven years. It’s time for action and a new approach for the Capital.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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