THE number of homeless people being put up in bed and breakfasts has risen by nearly a half in two years, new figures have revealed.
Hundreds of households – both single people and couples – are being forced to spend up to seven weeks in temporary accommodation as the city's affordable housing crisis deepens.
Only a handful of people were being placed in B&Bs a decade ago but the numbers have recently rocketed. Just over 200 homeless people were housed in B&Bs in December 2006, but by December last year this had jumped to 292.
The push towards B&Bs is part of the council's strategy to try and cut down on the number of people sleeping rough ahead of a 2012 Government deadline where it has an obligation to provide a home for everyone in the capital.
Putting people up in Edinburgh's B&Bs costs the council around 2 million a year. It is against the council's homeless policy to place children in B&Bs.
City leaders today said the B&B problem will not be solved until they get extra money to invest in more affordable housing.
Housing pressure groups and opposition politicians warned B&Bs do not provide any solution to homelessness. Graeme Brown, director of housing charity Shelter Scotland, said: "The substantial rise in couples and individuals being temporarily housed in bed and breakfast accommodation is worrying.
"Bed and breakfast deprives people of privacy and is also one of the most expensive forms of temporary accommodation. These figures indicate the increasing pressure on the housing system and the lack of affordable housing in the city.
"Investment in more affordable homes to rent is urgently needed to tackle the housing crisis in Edinburgh and across Scotland."
Other statistics released today show the council is failing to meet its targets on how long people stay at B&Bs. In the year to January, homeless people on the council's books had racked up a total of 18,763 days in B&Bs – 3,963 more than the target.
Gordon Munro, the city's Labour party housing spokesman, said: "The council's own figures show people are staying for too long in these bed and breakfasts.
In addition to the people being put up in B&Bs, there are also around 767 households, including families, in flats and other supported accommodation.
Councillor Paul Edie, the city's housing leader said: "The acute shortage of affordable housing in the city has its greatest impact on the 5,000 households who become homeless each year.
"The city needs 12,000 more homes for people to rent or buy at a price they can afford. At the moment there are more than 320 households staying in B&Bs.
"Whilst we try to keep their time there to a minimum the problem won't ever be solved until we receive investment to build the homes that are needed so desperately."