At a full council meeting held yesterday (2nd November) members voted overwhelmingly to recognise and seek to address the scale of Edinburgh’s housing crisis.
The decision comes in the wake of a call by housing charity Shelter for local authorities throughout Scotland to take concerted action. According to Shelter, homelessness affects close to 5,000 households in the capital alone despite the efforts of the council, charities and partner organisations.
Councillor Jane Meagher, Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Convener, said: “Edinburgh is a caring, welcoming city and our council officers, charities and partners do an incredible job supporting our most vulnerable residents. Sadly, however, despite us doubling the Council’s homelessness budget over the last three years, we are now at risk of failing households who need our help most.
“Edinburgh may be a wealthy city on the surface, but we are seeing demand for homes far outstrip supply. Close to 5,000 households including many children will need to live in temporary accommodation this Christmas, because of this housing shortage.
According to Meagher, the city is at breaking point: “Rents are being driven up, the cost of living continues to put pressure on household bills and homelessness is rising. We have ambitious house-building plans but we face rising construction costs as a result of inflation and difficulties securing land. This is against a backdrop of Edinburgh having the lowest proportion of homes for social rent in all of Scotland.
“By declaring a housing emergency, we hope to draw widescale attention to an issue that demands urgent and united action. Every single person deserves a warm, safe, and affordable place to call home and we can address this, if we act now.
“I’m pleased this decision received such powerful support today and we will now work towards establishing a Housing Emergency Action Plan, while seeking the resources necessary to achieve its success.”
Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “Scotland is facing a housing emergency, which is at its most acute in the capital.
“By acknowledging the reality of the housing emergency in Edinburgh, councillors now have licence to deliver the emergency response we need.
“There was an enormous breadth of support for today’s declaration from organisations working in housing, homelessness, and social justice in Edinburgh.”