Edinburgh’s affordable homes plan dubbed “pipe dream”

Thursday December 1st 2022


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

A plan for more than 11,000 new affordable homes to be constructed across Edinburgh in just five years has been labelled a “pipe dream” after it emerged the council only has enough cash to build 3,000.

Edinburgh Council officials admitted the proposal – which has been developed in a bid to meet its ‘20,000 social and affordable homes by 2027’ pledge – is “extremely ambitious”, however said it would continue to press the Scottish Government for more money.

Tory councillors called the plan, which suggested 11,375 new affordable homes could be completed in the next five years, an “undeliverable, aspirational document” as it would require a 200% uplift in government grant funding.

However Labour’s Jane Meagher, convener of the council’s housing committee, said ambition is “what this city needs”.

A report which went before the committee today noted an additional £712 million would be required on top of the council’s existing budget to meet the five-year target.

It said current resource planning assumptions would “only be able to deliver c.600 homes a year or 3,000 homes over the next five years”.

It added: “This ambitious programme is contingent on the sites being within affordable developer control/being brought forward in a timeous manner, the necessary funding being in place (both grant funding and private finance) and construction sector capacity to deliver at scale.”

Paul Lawrence, director of place for Edinburgh City Council told councillors there are “issues that constrain affordable development in the city”.

He said the council “has done its very best to try and argue for as much as possible” but added that would need “changes in Government policy”.

Conservative councillor Graeme Bruce, who called the proposals before the committee a “pipe dream”, said: “Is that not a worry that we’re just not going to meet that target, because it’s talking about a 200 per cent uplift.”

Tory group leader Iain Whyte urged members to “be realistic about funding”.

The pair tabled an amendment describing the plan as “an undeliverable, aspirational document” which “does not constitute a plan for increased affordable housing supply”.

Conservative councillors also proposed that the council asks the Scottish Government to complete a ‘full review’ of grant funding for affordable housing in Edinburgh.

They said this should recognise the capital’s “uniquely challenging situation” with regards to the rising local population, relative lack of affordable housing supply and homelessness.

However, they were defeated as councillors took it to a vote, with members agreeing to submit the plan to the Government.

Cllr Meagher said she would make “no apology” for backing the “ambitious” affordable housebuilding programme which she said is “what this city needs”.

“However I can’t accept that it’s an undeliverable aspirational document because I think that it clearly is deliverable given the right conditions, the right funding, the right land availability,” she added.

“But more importantly it’s what this city needs and that’s what we all have to unite to press for.

“We are all rising this issue because it’s something we feel strongly and passionately about.

“It’s about the future of our city.”

Since the 20,000 homes commitment was made by the previous SNP/Labour administration at the start of the council term in 2017, 8,367 new affordable homes are expected to be approved by 31 March 2023 with 6,942 completed.

The new goal to see a further 11,375 built in the following half-decade marks out a path for the council to meet its target, albeit dependent on a huge cash injection from Holyrood.

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