Cost of homelessness to Edinburgh revealed in new figures

Tens of millions were paid out to shelter homeless people in temporary accommodation in the Capital last year. Picture: EEN
Tens of millions were paid out to shelter homeless people in temporary accommodation in the Capital last year. Picture: EEN
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More than £43 million was paid out to shelter homeless people in temporary accommodation in the Capital last year – branded “the price we are paying for Scotland’s housing emergency”.

New figures show that the city council coughed up £43.6m during the 2018-19 financial year to meet a legal duty to take in those who present as homeless – including £14m on B&Bs and shared accommodation.

The bill includes payments for a host of costs including rents, staffing, refuse removal, white goods and furnishings and all property maintenance.

Figures show that the council was able to reclaim around £27.6M of the costs through rent payments, housing benefits and service charges – which is put back into homeless services. This resulted in a £16m net cost to taxpayers – while other homelessness and housing support services, including advice and housing options cost an additional £13m.

Opposition councillors have called on the Scottish Government to offer more support.

Green Cllr Chas Booth said: “We’ve known for years about the human cost of homelessness but now we can see that the annual spend would be enough to build over 8,000 council houses, more than enough to house all the people in temporary accommodation.

“The council can’t build these extra homes until it can free up the money, but it can’t free up the money until it builds these homes. That is why the Scottish Government needs to step in with a one-off programme of extra funding, to allow the council to get out of the current trap.”

A charity has also backed calls for more affordable homes to be built to help lift people out of homelessness.

Susie Higgins, manager of Shelter Scotland’s Edinburgh community hub, said: “This high level of spending on temporary accommodation is the price we are paying for Scotland’s housing emergency and, while helping people in crisis, it does nothing to stop homelessness in the first place.

“The real cost is paid by the thousands of people who enter temporary accommodation including families with children who find their lives turned upside down – living out of bags, unsure when they will next have a permanent home. 

“To end this, we need to see many more homes built and we need to see people’s housing rights enforced and strengthened. Only by stopping people becoming homeless in the first place can we end it and the irreparable damage it causes to people’s lives.”

The council has published a five-year plan to halt homeless people being housed in temporary accommodation – but the strategy will need financial support from Holyrood.

Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “We want to get away from the use of temporary accommodation which is why we have a plan to end its use for good. We have one of the most pressured housing markets in the country, average rents in excess of £1,000 per month and only 15 per cent social housing compared to a national average of 24 pe