Letters: Buy back former council homes to tackle crisis

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Cllr Scott Arthur wrote into the Edinburgh Evening News with a suggestion about how the Capital could solve its housing shortage.

Andy Wightman MSP is right that where housing is concerned, our capital has become a city of haves and have nots.

At a time when the council is dealing simultaneously with Scottish Government cuts and a housing crisis, our capital has witnessed a rapid expansion in Airbnb-type lets – it is estimated that there are 9638 in Edinburgh.

This sector of the economy is largely unregulated due to the Scottish Government’s unwillingness to bring forward legislation to ensure owners act responsibly and provide safe accommodation.

Along with Sheila Gilmore, convenor for Housing 1999-2007, I have, ­therefore, set up a petition to force the Scottish Government to listen to ­Edinburgh on this. Readers can sign it at: ABetter Edinburgh.org

There is much the council can do right now, however, to improve the housing situation in Edinburgh, like buying back former council houses at the ­market rate and making them available to families that need them.

There are around 5000 empty homes in the city at any one time. The vast ­majority cause no problems and are empty for no longer than six months. Others are empty for longer periods and do result in problems – overgrown gardens, vandalism etc. One near where I live has remained empty for 20 years!

Each year around August the council produces a report on empty homes. This year for the first time it will cover problematic empty homes. It is hoped it will also outline a policy for the use of compulsory purchase powers to deal with them. If it does not contain that policy, the Labour Group will ask for it and systematically use it to bring homes back into use.

So yes, we can complain about the Scottish Government’s indifference, but we can’t afford to sit back and wait on them to act.

Cllr Scott Arthur, City Chambers, Edinburgh.