John McLellan: New homes target missed again

Edinburgh is struggling to meet its affordable homes target
Edinburgh is struggling to meet its affordable homes target
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The latest new homes bulletin from property experts Rettie makes for sobering reading for Edinburgh Council’s target of building 20,000 new affordable homes in ten years, with just 1804 homes of all types completed in Edinburgh in the year to the end of March.

The council’s pledge was agreed in August last year so to keep on track around 2500 should have been completed since then, although a council report last month set a bar of 2000 every year until 2030.

The Rettie figure is nearly a fifth down on the previous year, although the report to last month’s committee indicated an acceleration to 1924 completions at market rates in 2017-18.

With the proportion of affordable homes averaging around 38 per cent, 800 affordable completions in 2017-18 is a long way short of the council’s own goal and a huge amount now rests on a rapid development of the brownfield sites in Granton.

But paying for the infrastructure remains a headache, especially as the projections are for just 845 market-priced homes in each of the next 12 years which limits the amount of cash available from developers which would be the usual way to pay for new roads, primary schools and health centres, and indeed subsidising the affordable sector. It suggests more council borrowing set against future rent receipts which could be a high-risk strategy if the Scottish economy continues to flat-line.

Less than two years into the administration and already the 20,000 order is getting taller.

Student flats no academic question

Gorgie Community Council this week wrote to planning councillors about a new development combining a Scotmid supermarket and a block of student flats, but perhaps unusually it was to express fulsome support, not opposition.

Student accommodation is becoming increasingly unwelcome in most communities, on the basis that an absence of students makes an area unsuitable or in areas of higher concentration they are deemed a threat.

The Edinburgh by Numbers report showing student bed spaces have doubled to 19,000 in eight years illustrates the rapid expansion, but with 67,200 students in the city and rising, there is a long, long way to go before supply outstrips demand.

The scale of Edinburgh University’s ambition is clear from its estates website, showcasing a massive building programme on all sites. That’s great for the city’s economy but accommodation doesn’t feature highly, even though where students live is hardly academic.

Traffic breaks the silence

IT was impossible to predict the number of people who came out on Sunday to honour our war dead on the Armistice Centenary but from where I stood on the High Street it was hugely impressive and moving.

While Sunday’s significance was never in doubt, the moment when the Trenches passed firmly into history, and with the place of McCrae’s Battalion in Edinburgh War lore, someone should have realised that traffic would need to stop for the Haymarket Ceremony on this day of all days.

Maybe buses, taxis and trams won’t break the silence next year, but it will be a year too late.

Building bridges?

The fractious relationship between Edinburgh’s SNP housing convenor Kate Campbell and her deputy, Labour’s Lezley Cameron, sank even deeper this week with Cllr Cameron facing what they call “a meeting without coffee” with her party whip to discuss the situation. But Cllr Cameron is getting plenty of moral support from colleagues, with one acidly commenting: “No-one has left the Labour group because of Lezley, but two SNP councillors have quit because of Kate.” Ouch… Is that what they call political consensus?