Council to turn empty homes around more quickly in drive to tackle housing emergency

Housing chiefs said void homes could be turned around ‘in weeks not months’
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Edinburgh council chiefs said it will bring more empty homes back into use and turn them around more quickly to increase available, affordable homes.

It comes after shocking data released this week revealed 58 died whilst homeless in Edinburgh, a figure which has more than doubled in the past five years.

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Nearly 5,000 households now face homelessness against a shortage of affordable housing in the Capital.

The council plans to bring more empty home back into use fasterThe council plans to bring more empty home back into use faster
The council plans to bring more empty home back into use faster

People currently face an average wait of more than two months (79 days) to move into a house with the council or registered social landlord in the city, once it has been allocated.

But that can take much longer when it’s an empty home, especially if it’s in need of significant repairs.

Housing chiefs hope that will be cut to weeks not months as the council aims to ‘tighten up’ on how it handles void homes,

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Following the declaration of a housing emergency earlier this month an initial draft of an action plan has now been published by the City of Edinburgh Council aimed at tackling growing homelessness.


The plan proposes the council turns void homes around more quickly and spot purchases ‘off the shelf’ homes, to increase affordable housing supply at pace at a time when construction costs have risen exponentially.

It’s also proposed that the council will increase the number of rented homes available through the private sector leasing scheme (PSL).

Opposition councillors branded the plan ‘too little too late’.

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Edinburgh has the highest number of vacant houses in Scotland, according to recent research. Nearly 500 council and social homes were empty for between two and four years, according to the study.

Council chiefs say an estimated 11,000 new affordable and social homes could be possible in Edinburgh over the next five years. But there’s a staggering £665 million shortfall in funding of what the council says it needs - four times the council’s current funding projections for housebuilding. The gap in funding was revealed in the annual Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP).

Councillor Jane Meagher, Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Convener, said: “We’re truly at a point where urgent, united action must be taken to do right by the most vulnerable in our city.

“Thousands of people in Edinburgh are finding themselves with their lives on hold as they live through the hugely stressful reality of losing their home. Every night, close to 5,000 households are now sleeping in temporary accommodation in this city, wondering when and indeed if they will receive the security of a permanent place to live.

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“Having a home is a basic human right and by highlighting the issue we’re determined to do everything within our means to address it. We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the third sector and industry which gives me great confidence that we can work together to improve the situation. We need to address this issue as a city and nationally at all levels of council and government.

“Despite our success building close to 1,500 new homes and having over 500 under construction right now, plus positive work with partners preventing homelessness, the cost of living crisis means that demand for affordable housing is far outstripping supply. The added pressure of rising construction costs and reduced budgets mean we need to think differently. I hope this action plan forms the basis of what will become a wider city plan."

Cllr David Key, SNP Housing Spikeperson said: “We’ve seen a year and a half of disastrous failure under this council administration. In that time they’ve almost halved the pipeline of new affordable homes, slashed new council house building by £1.3bn and left 1,500 council houses sit empty while thousands of families experience homelessness and wait on lists for more suitable accommodation.

"Labour and their allies have failed by every possible measure. We’ll offer constructive input as opposition councillors but for many this will simply be too little too late from an administration asleep at the wheel.”

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A detailed 25-point Housing Emergency Action Plan will be considered by the council’s Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee on Tuesday, 5 December.

If agreed, a more detailed strategy with costings and specific targets will be brought to a full council meeting in February, with input from industry and voluntary organisations.

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