Edinburgh housing crisis: Calls for cap on student flat bids amid warning of housing market 'collapse'

MSP calls for cap on student developments in Capital

A Lothians MSP has called for a cap on student developments in Edinburgh amid stark warning of a ‘collapse’ of the housing market.

Miles Briggs has urged the council to put a moratorium on applications for student accommodation in place after being contacted by constituents increasingly frustrated by lack of affordable housing across the city. It follows claims from a major letting agent that the housing market is at ‘breaking point’ with waiting lists of nearly 800 for two-bedroom properties.

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Letting agents have blamed the major housing crisis on a combination of rising student numbers and an estimated 40 per cent drop in private rental properties compared to pre-pandemic levels. One firm said it was being inundated on a daily basis with people crying, unable to find somewhere to live. On Thursday the Scottish Government announced the rent freeze will be lifted from April 1, allowing rents to increase by 3 per cent and by up to 6 per cent in the private rented sector.

Council urged to cap developments of student flatsCouncil urged to cap developments of student flats
Council urged to cap developments of student flats

Tory MSP Mr Briggs said this could help alleviate the pressure but it’s not enough – he claims a ‘big part of the puzzle’ of shortage of affordable homes being built is the sheer volume of developments of student flats. He has backed calls from charity Shelter Scotland for the Scottish Government to reverse planned cuts to the capital housing budget of 16 per cent.

Mr Briggs said: “Given the pressures on the social rented sector and the competing demands for development land it is perhaps time for a moratorium or cap on more student developments to be considered by the council. The solution to the housing crisis is being held down by a sea of student flats. It’s a policy decision. I hear all the time from people frustrated and fed up that they can’t get a home. One of the biggest concerns locals had about Gorgie farm closing was that the land would be sold off and turned into student housing.

"The council don’t seem to have a tangible strategy for getting that crucial balance and affordable homes desperately needs to be given priority. We already see huge pressures in the record levels of homelessness and in temporary accommodation. They need to get a grip on the mix. It’s going to get worse because housing associations are not bringing forward developments. The Scottish Government is not taking any leadership role here and I fear that the Capital is in a dangerous space.

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"We get predominantly international students taking up these flats. People are struggling to get on property ladder and also can’t get rented place. There’s a hidden group of people still living at home with parents who feel they don’t stand a chance. A lot of private lets are not coming forward, the buy to let market is depreciating and the available housing just isn’t there. It’s a perfect storm. There just isn’t the supply of homes and demand will keep rocketing. The market is going to collapse. For those furthest from the market like homeless, it will push them even further away from a chance of a home.”

It comes as a number of controversial student flat bids are being considered for the capital.

A planning application for new student accommodation with ground floor commercial space at Jock’s Lodge has been submitted. The plans previously met with strong opposition from residents, local MP and a councillor who claims locals are fed up of ‘tacky blocks being thrown up’ with no benefit to the wider community. Residents and community groups are also fighting controversial plans to build more student flats in Canonmills and will get the chance to put their case to councillors before a decision is made. The bid for 142-studio flats on the “complex” site of a recently-demolished builders merchant has attracted nearly 400 objections from locals.

Edinburgh council has been contacted for comment.