Edinburgh declares a housing emergency

Homes for social rent in Edinburgh
Homes for social rent in Edinburgh

Councillors in Edinburgh have overwhelmingly voted to recognise and seek to address the scale of Edinburgh’s housing crisis.

In a first for the city, members agreed to officially declare an emergency today (Thursday 2 November) during a Full Council meeting.

It comes as Shelter calls on local authorities to take concerted action across the country, and as homelessness reaches close to 5,000 households a night in the Capital despite a huge amount of preventative work by the third sector, Council and partners.

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.

This is not a new challenge, but it is at the stage of 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 housebuilding 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 from Councillors 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. 

People in Edinburgh are struggling through this housing emergency, and they expect action to be taken at every level of government. 

With councillors having committed to delivering a housing emergency action plan, Shelter Scotland stands ready to work with the council in its development.  

Councillors have taken a positive step today, but this is just the beginning of a journey which must ultimately lead to the end of the housing emergency in Edinburgh.

Published: November 2nd 2023