A safe, warm and affordable home is a right – Kate Campbell

The city council is exploring various courses of action to ease the pressure on housing in Edinburgh, writes Kate Campbell.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 6:00 am
Cllr Kate Campbell is convener of the housing, homelessness and fair work committee at Edinburgh City Council

Housing in Edinburgh is under severe pressure. At the housing, homeless and fair work committee tomorrow we’re looking at what interventions we can make in the private rented sector (PRS) to make sure that the supply of housing in our city is meeting the need.

Over the last two decades the number of households in Edinburgh living in the PRS has doubled to 60,000, making up around 26 per cent of homes. The national average is 15 per cent. This is almost a mirror image of social housing where we have only 14 per cent against a national average of 24 per cent.

So around ten per cent of households in Edinburgh, who’d be in social housing in another city, are privately renting. In one of the most expensive housing markets in Scotland.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Edinburgh has lost one in ten homes from the private rented sector to Airbnb-style lets in recent years

We are delivering one of the most ambitious affordable housebuilding programmes in the country. When you look at these percentages you know why it is needed. But it’s clear that we also need to look at the PRS, using the powers we have now and asking for the ones we think we need.

The most obvious of these is controls over Short Term Lets. It’s estimated that we’ve lost one in ten homes from the PRS to Airbnb-style lets in recent years. The basic economics of supply and demand make it clear that this will have impacted on rents and house prices. And there’s evidence of this with rents going up as much as 30 per cent in areas where there are high concentrations of these types of properties.

The council put in a strong response to the Scottish Government’s public consultation. We’re confident that we’ll get the powers we need to properly regulate short term lets, and protect homes and communities.

But there’s more that we can do.

Although homeless presentations have come down overall, we’ve seen an increase in households becoming homeless from the private rented sector.

We’re recruiting housing officers in each locality to work with households at risk of homelessness in the PRS. They’ll make sure tenants know their rights, negotiate with landlords and help people to understand the housing options available to them before they become homeless.

We’ve also commissioned Crisis to deliver a project called ‘Help to Rent Edinburgh’. This is, at its core, a rent deposit scheme. But there’s also support to find a home, a flatmate or flat share, help with getting furniture and ongoing tenancy support for both landlords and tenants.

And we’re looking at how to improve the quality and affordability of private rented homes. This includes working with the private sector who are delivering ‘build to rent’ housing at market and mid-market rents. We want to make sure these homes are being built in places that people want to live, deliver on-site affordable housing and increase the supply of good quality, well managed homes.

We also need the ability to control rents through rent pressures zones (RPZs). We’re working with other local authorities, and the Scottish Government, to develop a methodology for gathering the data to make the case for implementing RPZs.

Housing is a big challenge for Edinburgh, but all these things together will start to make a difference. And making sure that everyone has a home that‘s affordable, safe and warm will continue to be an absolute priority as long as that challenge remains.

Cllr Kate Campbell is convener of the housing, homelessness and fair work committee at Edinburgh City Council