New flats for rent strategy aims to increase Edinburgh’s affordable homes
A strategy to encourage developers to build affordable flats for rent – despite concerns it could lead to “high end” developments with gyms and cafes, is to be pursued by Edinburgh City Council.
It is hoped a build to rent plan, where developers bring forward homes to let rather than purchase, will lead to house-building at a quicker pace.
The Capital is grappling with rising rental costs. The average monthly private rent in Edinburgh is currently £1,087 – compared to the Scotland average of £799. Over the last year, Edinburgh’s average rent has soared by 4.8 per cent.
Council officials will speak to developers and the build to rent industry to come up with a policy to support the initiative and “accelerate housing development” – with affordable homes set to be key to any strategy. The council’s planning policy requires build to rent developers to provide 25 per cent of on-site affordable housing.
Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “Build to rent can be a positive part of the housing mix in the city. Because it’s a long term investment, homes tend to be good quality and public spaces are well maintained, with extra thought put into how new developments will become sustainable communities that people want to live in.
“The question for us in Edinburgh is around affordable development. Our biggest priority is building affordable homes in the city. There have been several examples of BTR developments being let off their affordable contribution in other local authorities, particularly in England.
“This is not something we would consider in Edinburgh and we want to work with the industry to work out how best to deliver affordable homes in a built to rent context.”
In a report to the council’s housing and economy committee, officers warned that build to rent developments have “traditionally been associated with the high end, upper quartile of the rental market, offering on-site amenities such as gyms, cafes and concierge services within managed housing developments”.
It adds that “high land costs” in the Capital need to be recouped by developers through rent to make schemes financially competitive.
Vice housing and economy convener, Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron, said: “I think, given the uniqueness of our housing situation and the cost of living here, we need to be open-minded.
“There is this misperception that it does only cater for the high end. It has been delivered where all the housing through this model can be affordable.”
But the council’s head of place development, Michael Thain, said he “wasn’t aware” of any developments where build to rent scheme had provided 100 percent affordable homes.
Green Cllr Claire Miller said: “In Edinburgh we are facing an extreme housing shortage and build to rent is one of the ways that new homes can be provided more rapidly.
“I support proposals to work with housing associations and businesses to develop the council’s policy on these rented homes. People who rent deserve high quality affordable places to live. “
Conservative housing spokesperson, Cllr Cameron Rose, added: “I think there are many other reasons why the market is releasing housing so slowly and one of those is the council and its planning processes and its slow responses.
“It’s not just a question of people holding back to maximise sales.”