Where's the Scottish solution to our city's housing problem? - Susan Dalgety

Some startling numbers have emerged about the state of housing in our city. The number of households classed as homeless, or at risk of losing their home, rose by nearly a quarter last year, from 1,958 to 2,403.

We need  urgent, real solutions to help ordinary people secure a home in the capital when the system leaves so many without a fighting chance,  writes Susan Dalgety. PIC: National World
We need urgent, real solutions to help ordinary people secure a home in the capital when the system leaves so many without a fighting chance, writes Susan Dalgety. PIC: National World

Council tenants now owe Edinburgh City Council £11 million in rent arrears, a rise of 30 per cent in two years. And house prices in the capital continue to rise, making the average cost of buying a home £262,300, way beyond the reach of many people.

As I sit amid a mountain of supermarket bags for life packed full of the detritus of my flat, it struck me how lucky I was to be able to make this move.

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I bought my first flat in the early 1990s, and since then I have moved across the city several times, as far as Fisherrrow, before heading back to the heart of Edinburgh.

I have downsized and decluttered more than once. I have used equity in previous homes to help my sons get on the housing ladder, and to fund my lust for travel.

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And while my financial planning would make a bank manager weep, I have, like many people of my generation, been able to play the housing market to my advantage. More through luck than design, it must be said.

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Not so the thousands of young families trapped in expensive rental accommodation, unable to secure a mortgage to buy a starter home. A young father I met earlier this week described how he would need tens of thousands of pounds for a deposit to secure a house loan.

“How can I save that kind of money?” he asked, knowing there was no answer.

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There are of course many youngsters who benefit from the bank of mum and dad and are able to get their first foot on the housing ladder in their twenties. But the majority struggle.

They don’t even have the option of securing a council tenancy, as I did for my first home. Councillor Jane Meagher, convener of the Housing, Homelessness, and Fair Work Committee, admitted last week that the significant demand for social housing in Edinburgh far outstrips supply.

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And with private landlords charging £1,000 a month for a modest two-bedroom property, it is impossible to save for a deposit while keeping a roof over your head.

What is to be done? The announcement last week that the city will become Scotland’s first control area for short-term lets will surely help.

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But the city needs new homes. Not a few hundred, but thousands of affordable, energy-efficient homes to buy or rent. The council’s city plan for 2030 suggests that nearly 40,000 new homes are required to meet demand.

The city council cannot achieve this housing revolution on its own. It requires a partnership between the public and private sector with the force of the Scottish government behind it.

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If I were council leader, I would invite Shona Robison, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for housing strategy, to join me in developing a funded plan for housing in our capital city. Exactly the kind of thing campaigners for the Scottish Parliament envisaged – Scottish solutions to Scottish problems.