Council proposes to spend an additional £9.3 million on temporary accommodation to house homeless

An additional £9.3 million of public money could be spent on providing temporary accommodation to homeless people in Edinburgh.

A member of the public walks past a homeless man
A member of the public walks past a homeless man

The move comes as Edinburgh City Council says it has “pretty much ended rough sleeping in the capital during the pandemic”, and that they “want to keep things that way”.

On Thursday, members of the council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee will vote to approve or reject having the option to spend up to £9.3 million on spot contracts for temporary accommodation, up until 31 March 2021.

Under spot contracting, short-term housing will only be contracted for as and when it is required by the council.

The council has experienced “significant challenges” organising temporary housing for those in need during the coronavirus crisis.

In order to suppress the virus temporary accommodation has needed to be sorted quickly. However, lockdown has exacerbated pre-existing short-term housing shortages, particularly because people have been unable to move from temporary dwellings into longer-term homes.

The council believes that more spot contracting, as a supplement to existing temporary accommodation contracts, will be crucial for enabling them to meet statutory obligations to house any person experiencing homelessness.

In the period up to 31 May 2020, it spent an additional £675 000 on short-term housing. The Scottish Government has said it will “provide partial mitigation against the additional temporary accommodation costs incurred as a result of Covid-19.”

In 2019/20 the local authority spent £22.8 million on short term lets, shared house and bed and breakfast accommodation. Of this amount £6.9m was spent on spot purchases.

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Cllr Kate Campbell, Edinburgh’s Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Convener, said: “We’ve put a huge amount of support in place for people facing homelessness during the pandemic, and taken people off the streets rapidly, all thanks to the incredible work by our staff and partner agencies.

“Hotels opened their doors to people who had been rough sleeping. Short-term let properties came back into use as homes. Our priority now is moving people into suitable accommodation, and permanent homes where possible.

“But as lockdown restrictions ease, we need to make sure that we are still able to accommodate everyone who needs somewhere to stay. This report means we will still be able to access those properties quickly, as long as we need to, so that we can keep people off the streets.

“We’ve pretty much ended rough sleeping in the capital during the pandemic. We want to keep it that way.”

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Green housing spokesperson, Cllr Chas Booth, said: “Bigger questions need to be asked, yet again, on why the council is shelling out £23m overall on temporary accommodation that is very often poor quality and high cost. It is the sorry sign of a broken housing market which seems incapable of meeting all residents’ basic need for a permanent home.

“So it is vital that Edinburgh builds more council houses, strengthens requirements on private developers to provide truly affordable homes; and encourages holiday let owners, whose properties have been empty for three months, to put them to better use as people’s homes.”