The problem with empty Edinburgh homes bought as an investment should be obvious – Helen Martin

Edinburgh city council should take care when selling off public buildings to be turned into homes to ensure they actually do become someone’s home, writes Helen Martin.

Pupils leave the old Boroughmuir High School for the last time in February 2018. Picture: Greg Macvean
Pupils leave the old Boroughmuir High School for the last time in February 2018. Picture: Greg Macvean

BOROUGHMUIR High School was a beautiful building, sold by the council to Cala Homes, who claimed they would create a community hub along with flats and houses for local people. That’s what the developers promised Labour MP Ian Murray. And there certainly was discussion about a section being “affordable”.

Now, with a London-esque commercial plot, they’ve offered a bunch of these homes to Hong Kong buyers and investors. Bear in mind that foreign investors buy homes and whole properties in London and leave them vacant, preventing anyone from living in them, so they can watch the value rise and sell them whenever they choose to make a profit. Many foreign investors in Edinburgh make dosh from turning properties into Airbnbs.

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Flats at old Boroughmuir High site sold to Hong Kong investors months before dom...
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We have a shortage of housing and a particular shortage of affordable housing. So once again, this is a question for the council. If they sell such a property, why wouldn’t they do so with some legally enforceable clauses within the deal?

Shouldn’t they also recognise that they are not independent property owners? A school like Boroughmuir is a long-standing public building. Councillors are temporary caretakers who can’t just flog things like Donald Trump (perhaps they can, but they shouldn’t).

Is it possible that this is another procedure delegated to employed officials, who work for the council but don’t represent, or necessarily consider, the benefit and protection of citizens?

Edinburgh is just about second to London in property values, so it is an obvious place for overseas investors to work with.

If there are no restricting rules in deals like this, we are doomed to lose more and more housing in this city.