AROUND 60,000 affordable homes would be built across the Lothians as part of the ambitious multi-billion pound City Deal programme.
The deal would see investment from the Scottish and UK governments used to kickstart building projects by housing associations across the city and south-east of Scotland.
Housing charities welcomed the news, warning the shortage would “only get worse if supply does not keep up with demand”.
Edinburgh alone needs to build more than 25,000 extra houses by 2026, according to official estimates, with much of the rest of the region, including Midlothian, East and West Lothian facing pressures as populations rise. The market is “failing to deliver enough new homes to meet demand”, city officials are warning.
“This is a housing crisis affecting not only Edinburgh,” they say in a report on the issue, “but also the neighbouring local authorities, as rising inequality and cost of living impacts on households in Edinburgh and other parts of the region.”
The report says it is “essential” public sector landowners such as the NHS, Police Scotland and Ministry of Defence make land available for “accelerated development of low cost and affordable homes”.
One site already identified is the Royal Victoria Hospital, which is seen as ideal for 240 houses for affordable rent, market rent and sale.
Former army barracks – including Redford and Craigiehall – are also expected to be targeted following the UK government’s review of its defence estate. And speculation is rife that the former Lothian and Borders police headquarters at Fettes could be sold off for housing amid concerns it is no longer fit for purpose.
Plans to build 60,000 affordable homes are part of the long-awaited City Region Deal, which will see at least £1 billion of public money injected into the Capital – as well as up to £3.2bn of private investment to help boost the economy.
The deal will be finalised during the budget in March next year, but little has been made public about the detailed proposals.
Kickstarting the building of affordable housing has been identified as one of the key areas of investment, with a “Regional Land and Property Commission” set to be established to snap up suitable public sector land using a £50 million “site acquisition fund”.
As well as more homes, City Deal cash could be pumped into extending the trams down into Leith and beyond as well as helping fund a £45 million new concert hall off St Andrew Square.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is spearheading a bid to create a permanent new home behind the Royal Bank of Scotland’s historic head office.
The 60,000 affordable homes would be built across the three Lothian authorities, Fife and the Scottish Borders – all partners in the City Deal bid.
It is hoped the extra investment could transform areas that have previously resisted development, such as Edinburgh’s long-neglected Waterfront.
Liz Mcareavey, chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said affordable housing was “essential for attracting business, talent and future investment”.
She added: “It is also key to achieving a more inclusive society. The city’s population is growing by one per cent per annum, creating a considerable shortfall in the availability of quality, reasonably-priced housing.”
Council leader Andrew Burns said: “Following last week’s announcement in the Budget Autumn Statement, confirming that the UK government remains committed to securing a City Region Deal for Edinburgh and South East Scotland, I am delighted to say that discussions with the UK and Scottish governments are very much on track.
“Given the obvious sensitivities regarding these negotiations, we are not in a position to give further details at this stage.
“I can say, however, that the investment propositions being discussed are targeted at accelerating growth in Edinburgh and the wider regional economy for the benefit of the local Scottish and UK economies while also tackling inequalities and deprivation.”
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Without affordable housing people are also unable to save which leaves them vulnerable to homelessness.
“In growing communities like Edinburgh this housing shortage will only get worse if supply does not keep up with demand.
“We urge the local councils involved in the project to ensure that they keep up with growing demand and ensure that the homes delivered are truly affordable with a significant share available for social rent.”