Edinburgh housing crisis: Calls for housing emergency response as 'more and more' face life without a home

More and more tenants from private rented homes in the Capital are becoming homeless.
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Edinburgh council is facing fresh calls to declare a ‘housing emergency’, as figures show increasing numbers of families are facing life without a home.

It comes as local and national charities are reporting ‘more and more’ private sector tenants in the city are being plunged into homelessness because they can't afford the soaring rent. Around 7,000 people are living in temporary accommodation in the city, the highest in the country. That includes more than 2,000 children stuck in ‘unsuitable’ temporary accommodation facing the “limbo” of B&Bs and homeless shelters – for up to two years.

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Now city councillor Jane Meagher has said it’s up to the council to acknowledge the city is in the grip of a deepening emergency. The Labour councillor said that the situation in Edinburgh is 'getting worse all the time’. She has submitted a motion calling for a housing emergency to be declared which will be debated at full council meeting on Thursday, November 2.

Children in Edinburgh stuck in temporary accommodation for up to two yearsChildren in Edinburgh stuck in temporary accommodation for up to two years
Children in Edinburgh stuck in temporary accommodation for up to two years

It comes as shocking figures have revealed that the number of children stuck in temporary housing has soared to almost 10,000 across the country. Shelter has claimed Scotland’s housing crisis is the worst it has been in 20 years.

Shelter Scotland, tenant union Living Rent, and several MSPs have also added their voice to calls for a housing emergency to be declared.

The Portobello and Craigmillar councillor said she hopes it will prompt an emergency response to combat the crisis. Ms Meagher said: “When I look out the window I see a wealthy city on the surface. But there are so many who don’t have a place to call home. I’ve spoken to charities who say that there are increasing numbers of private sector tenants forced out of their homes because they can't afford the rent. This is happening for more and more people now. Rents are being driven up due to the chronic shortage of affordable homes. The most distressing thing for me is the sheer numbers now in temporary accommodation, especially children. This crisis affects many people, from those whose relationships have broken down to people whose businesses have gone down the tubes to young people who have fallen out with their families. We need to declare an emergency because its already chronic – and it’s getting worse all the time. The cost of living crisis is putting even more pressure on people.”

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"Declaring an emergency will mean we have to take emergency action. We might be forced to make tough choices about priorities for the limited housing we do have available and determine differently priorities for public expenditure. It will also put pressure on both governments to invest more to combat the problem. It’s not party political, the crisis we are in is as a result of a series of policy choices over the years. We all need to understand and address it now. In an emergency, we need to act quickly, effectively and address the problem. If it’s now acknowledged as an emergency it focuses that conversation.”

The Evening News has revealed that families from Edinburgh are being sent to hotels and other temporary accommodations as far away as Stirling and Inverness, because they are unable to get accommodation in the Capital.

Letting agents have warned that 200 people bid for every rented property listed. The fierce competition for homes and a chronic shortage of available properties, along with soaring rents is making it ‘impossible’ to get a home - pushing even more people into homelessness.

Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said the council needs to ‘be bold’. She said: “Scotland is in the grip of a housing emergency; decades of under investment in social housing, years of austerity policies, have combined with a cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic to create this dire situation.

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“There have been big increases in homelessness, private rents in the capital are out of control, and record numbers of people are stuck in temporary homeless accommodation. The housing emergency is a national one, but it is most acute in Edinburgh. An emergency situation demands an emergency response; business as usual isn’t working.

“Shelter Scotland is ready to work with the council and play our part, now people in Edinburgh want the city’s councillors to be bold, to take the lead, to recognise the scale of the problem but not to be daunted by it. We hope every councillor in the city will declare a housing emergency on Thursday, and commit to taking the action needed to end it.”

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