A severe shortage of housing facilities in Edinburgh is proving to be the greatest stumbling block to eradicating homelessness, The Journal has learned.
According to statistics from the Edinburgh City Council, an average of 130 people bid for every council home that becomes available to let.
Edinburgh city councilors plan to eliminate homelessness from the capital’s streets by 2012. However, with 5,000 families and single people becoming homeless every year, achieving this will be no easy task.
If the council is to achieve their aim of finding permanent accommodation for Edinburgh’s thousands of homeless people by 2012, a further 12,000 homes will be required at affordable prices.
Councillor Paul Edie, Housing Convenor, expressed his frustration at the fact that Edinburgh has one of the highest rates of homelessness in Scotland, suffering from a persistent shortage of council housing.
“There is an acute shortage of affordable housing in the city and across the south east of Scotland; yet other parts of the country have a considerable surplus of affordable housing," he said.
"It is beyond understanding that the area with the most acute shortage, Edinburgh and the South East, has historically received so little of the share of the national investment programme for new affordable homes.
“The Council has led Scotland in developing first class services for homeless people. It is the only authority to be awarded an A grade following inspection. However, unless more new affordable homes are build in the city more homeless people will spend longer times in temporary accommodation.”
At any time, more than 600 homeless families and single people live in temporary accommodation throughout the city. There are currently some 740 households residing in short-term housing in Edinburgh, with approximately 260 households staying in bed and breakfasts, and a further 480 households in flats and other forms of temporary accommodation.
However, none of these families are able to remain in temporary housing for longer than three months.
In recent years, the council has resorted to leasing properties from local landlords in order to deal with the capital’s growing wave of homelessness.
Mr Edie continued: “For the last three years more homeless people in Edinburgh have come to the council for help than the council has houses to let. Over the last two years we have plugged the gap through leasing over 1,000 empty properties from private property owners for temporary accommodation.”
Despite the increasing problem of homelessness in Edinburgh, the Council maintains that no one in the capital is forced to sleep on the streets, as emergency accommodation is available to those who need it.
A council spokesperson stated: “Over the last five years, the Council and the city's voluntary organisations have managed to ensure that no one needs to sleep rough in Edinburgh.
"While some people may choose to continue to sleep rough, emergency accommodation is always available.
"The council has also worked closely with private landlords to provide more accommodation for homeless people. It now has the largest private sector leasing scheme in the UK with more than 1,000 private sector properties leased to people who badly need housing.”