Labour group leader and depute leader of Edinburgh Council, Cllr Cammy Day, will press politicians at Holyrood to prioritise social housing, which provides cheaper rents – but takes up a higher proportion of the council’s government funding than mid-market rental affordable homes.
Although the overall number of homeless applications in Edinburgh has decreased, the percentage of homeless households from the private rented sector has gone up – now responsible for one fifth of all presentations, double the Scottish average.
Cllr Day, the city’s former vice housing convener who is vice chairman of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, said: “Homelessness can impact on anybody, whether you live in Morningside or Wester Hailes.
“A large part of this is to build people social housing, not affordable housing. Your rent will be £400, you will be in a brand new house and you get on the right ladder to get somewhere. I will be asking the Scottish Government for much more money to invest in social housing.”
There are 21,000 applicants seeking social housing in Edinburgh, but up to 200 bids can be received per home. Around 70 per cent of council lets are to homeless households – significantly higher than the national average of 41 per cent.
The Scottish Government has pledged to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2021 – with 35,000 to be social housing. Holyrood also redistributes funding that other local authorities in Scotland have not spent to councils who can use the money – with Edinburgh receiving an additional £21m over the last two years. The council receives around £43m a year towards its 10-year pledge to build 20,000 affordable homes – but the authority’s strategic housing investment plan (SHIP) admits that it “requires almost double the funding currently set out”.
Housing, homelessness and fair work convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “How much Edinburgh gets is decided by a funding distribution formula agreed at COSLA, so any efforts by Edinburgh councillors to improve that settlement are welcome.
“We’ve chosen to use it to deliver 80 per cent social housing because we know that social housing is desperately needed. But because we get roughly twice as many homes for the same amount if we build mid-market rents, and because they are still a lot more affordable than homes in the private rented sector, we’ve spent some of it building them.”
She added: “We need lots more affordable housing in Edinburgh, not least because we lost huge numbers of social homes through the Right to Buy, a scheme which has seen social homes become expensive private rented sector flats and even short-term, Airbnb-style, lets.
“We’re building record levels of social housing, something councils can do now that the Right to Buy has ended and we’re on track to deliver on our commitment to build 20,000 affordable homes in Edinburgh over the next 10 years.”
After speaking to those with lived experience through the poverty commission, Cllr Day has also called for the city to recognise that widespread homelessness is not restricted to the visible rough sleepers and those begging on the streets of the Capital.
He said: “The people who we spoke to are quite clear, people who are beggars does not mean they are homeless people. There are people who choose to beg and that does not equal them to be homeless.
“Homelessness can happen to anybody – that does not mean you are the the dirt on someone’s shoe, it means you are going through a really bad experience. It’s not somebody begging on the street looking for money for a hostel. If you’re homeless and want a hostel, we will give you one.”