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Edinburgh Council formally declare housing emergency after shortage reaches ‘breaking point’

The city will become the first in Scotland to do so


The City of Edinburgh Council “overwhelmingly voted” to formally declare a housing emergency in the city this Thursday.

The decision comes after reports from the council and Shelter Scotland found that renters in Edinburgh face the highest level of rent inflation in the UK at 13.7 per cent. Additionally, on average, renters face a competition of almost 200 other bids for each property that comes on the market.

The reports also showed a 41 per cent drop in the construction of affordable homes this year, alongside a reduction of Edinburgh’s Council House building program by £1.3 Billion in its 2023/2024 budget, putting further stress on the already under-supplied market.

The council published their decision on the 2nd of November, posting a statement on its website.

Supporters of the motion have also cited the city’s “record breaking” homelessness crisis, with over 5,000 households currently living in temporary accommodation, the highest level in Scotland.

Councillor Jane Meagher, the Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Convener, said: “This is not a new challenge but it is at the stage of breaking point”, adding: “By declaring a housing emergency, we hope to draw wide-scale attention to an issue that demands urgent and united action.”

Edinburgh will be the first city in Scotland to classify its housing market as being in an emergency state, and the second local authority after Argyle and Bute. Shelter Scotland is advocating for a nationwide emergency status.

Students in Edinburgh are acutely affected by the “broken” rental market, with one in four students yet to secure accommodation at the beginning of this term.

The University of Edinburgh’s 93 Percent Club, in a statement to The Edinburgh Tab, said: “Working class students are disproportionately impacted by the housing crisis.

“Whether it’s not having the right knowledge to know where to look for a flat, being taken advantage of by landlords or being shut out of the market altogether because they cannot afford ever-increasing rents.

“The housing crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities.”

The impact of the housing crisis on Edinburgh’s more vulnerable residents has also been highlighted by the Director of Shelter Scotland, Alison Watson, who commented on to the risks posed to the “record number of kids who have nowhere to call home”, and mentioned a “chronic lack of social homes” affecting those from poorer economic backgrounds.

In an article for The Scotsman, Vice-Principal Students of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Colm Harmon writes: “Edinburgh is facing a city-wide squeeze on housing as demand for rental properties continues to rise and availability falls. The University of Edinburgh has an important part to play in finding solutions to the problem, but we cannot do it alone.

“We continue to work with our partners, including the City of Edinburgh Council and other higher and further education providers, to find solutions that benefit all those looking to rent in our vibrant capital city.”

The City of Edinburgh Council have pledged to create a “Housing Emergency Action Plan”, requesting increased funding from the Scottish Government, and aim to foster further cooperation with outside organisations.