Edinburgh Council backs Crisis campaign to halt 'epidemic of homelessness' from private rented housing

The city’s housing chief will write to the UK Government – demanding that housing benefit allowances keep up with rent increases to halt an “epidemic of homelessness” from private rented properties.

Homeless people in Edinburgh often end up in temporary accommodation if they can't afford private sector rental costs, Picture: Crisis
Homeless people in Edinburgh often end up in temporary accommodation if they can't afford private sector rental costs, Picture: Crisis

Cllr Kate Campbell, the council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener, will appeal to Chancellor Sajid Javid, backing Crisis in Scotland’s campaign for local housing allowances (LHA) to be brought back up to cover costs of the lowest third of available private rented properties.

The LHA is the amount a person or household can claim for housing costs through Universal Credit or housing benefit. Currently in Edinburgh, it is set at £144 a week – £630 per calendar month.

But the average advertised private sector rent in Edinburgh is now more than £1,100 a month. Rents in the Capital have increased by more than 30 per cent since 2014 – including a five per cent rise in the last year. Last year in Edinburgh, around 800 households become homeless form the private rented sector.

Cllr Campbell said: “LHA rates mean that low income families and households can only afford subsidised affordable homes.

Read More

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

“People would have housing options way beyond the options they have at the moment. It would be better for people but it would also free up a huge amount of money for us to spend on other services.”

Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, said the problems were largely down to market forces and supply and demand of accommodation.

He added: “Lobbying the Chancellor is a fair way forward – to ask that he considers it as part of a wider look at spending.

“In the wider context, this won’t solve a market problem.”

But vice-housing convener, Cllr Mandy Watt, said the housing market in Edinburgh has “catastrophically failed” to provide the solution to “housing our citizens”.

She added: “We have an absolute epidemic of homelessness in which the council does not have the resources to provide the services that we want.

Green Cllr Chas Booth said the gap was an “absolute scandal”.

He added: “The pernicious way in which the Tories have frozen the local housing allowance has had a devastating impact on people on some of the lowest incomes.

“It is a pernicious Tory attack on the poor and it cannot be allowed to go on.”

Grant Campbell, director of Crisis in Scotland, said the gap was resulting in families “living on a knife-edge”.

He added: “Every day we work with people in our front-line services who are locked in a struggle to pay their rent, on top of trying to cover the cost of food and bills. For many, the constant pressure is too much and people lose their home.

“The government at Westminster will next week announce its spending priorities for the next year, it’s vital that investment in housing benefit is part of this plan if we want to truly end homelessness for good.”