Keith Anderson: Rental housing that’s affordable is a no-brainer
AS THE property market continues to struggle, many people who once would have thought about buying simply cannot and are being pushed into renting.
A soar in the number of “reluctant renters” has pushed rental prices, already renowned for being very high in Edinburgh, beyond the reach of many of the city’s key workers. With the average rent for a two-bedroom property in Edinburgh currently at more than £700 per month, and more than £900 in the city centre, people on modest incomes would find it very difficult to afford a safe and secure tenancy in a modern and well-equipped home.
This is why, in addition to providing more social housing, there now also needs to be a focus on supporting this group through the recently formed “mid-market rent” model. At Port of Leith Housing Association, of the 500 properties we plan to build in the next three years around half of these will be available for this category.
Mid-market rent is aimed at those who would not be eligible for traditional social housing but who would struggle with affording market rents – a particular problem in Edinburgh. Funding such projects needs to be approached differently from traditional social housing and we have formed a wholly-owned subsidiary company, Persevere Developments Ltd, to be more innovative in our approach to this market.
The need for affordable housing is at its most pressing for a generation. The average wait for a social rented home is now counted in years rather than weeks or months and the problem is growing. To deal with the remaining backlog, it would take approximately 20 years. These figures may seem an insurmountable task but they only take into account those who are eligible for social housing. We estimate there are thousands in Edinburgh who would benefit from mid-market rent homes.
Pricing people into dilapidated properties will, in the long run, price them out of Edinburgh. It also creates a real disparity and does not encourage vibrant, mixed communities that are essential for the success and well-being of the city.
• Keith Anderson is chief executive of Port of Leith Housing Association.
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