Housing chief insists affordable homes plan is on track

The Capital's housing chief has hit back at criticism levelled by opponents '“ insisting the council's affordable housing programme is on track.

Councillor Kate Campbell, the council's housing and economy convener. Picture: Neil Hanna
Councillor Kate Campbell, the council's housing and economy convener. Picture: Neil Hanna

The SNP-Labour coalition leadership at the City of Edinburgh Council pledged to build 10,000 affordable homes over a five-year period and 20,000 over a decade.

Cllr Kate Campbell, the council’s housing and economy convener, has lambasted claims by her Conservative opponent, Cllr John McLellan, that the plans weren’t ambitious enough.

Cllr McLellan said that “it’s not entirely clear whether the commitment is to build the homes or deliver a plan to build the homes, which is not the same thing”.

In 2017/18, 1,475 affordable homes were approved for social rent, mid-market rent and low-cost home ownership.

The council expects this year’s approvals to increase by at least to ten per cent to around 1,600 homes. Over the last two years, homes under construction on building sites across Edinburgh have almost doubled – with 35 active sites currently in operation.

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Cllr Campbell said: “It’s great that the Conservatives are now on board with the 
coalition’s affordable housebuilding programme – especially considering the only mention of affordable housing in their manifesto was to cut the 25 per cent requirement for affordable housing on private developments.

“This would have meant far fewer affordable homes getting built at a time when there are so many families in need. I’m glad they seem to have now abandoned that ill-thought out policy and accepted that the coalition is absolutely right to prioritise affordable homes.”

She added: “We have one of the most ambitious housebuilding commitments of any local authority in the UK. Maybe they should focus on sending a message to their own party.”

The Conservatives have berated Cllr Campbell for her interpretation of the party’s last manifesto.

Cllr McLellan, Conservative economy spokesman, said: “The Conservative group has always supported accelerating the delivery of all types and tenures of housing, and it is unfortunate that Cllr Campbell has been reduced to misrepresenting our manifesto pledge.

“We called for changes to the affordable quota only on selected brownfield sites which were proving difficult to develop, not all private development, to incentivise developers to build on old industrial land. It was a means to help the city meet the soaring demand it is now experiencing and would have encouraged a mix of housing in areas which were lying undeveloped, particularly in north Edinburgh.

“With the new guidance to the Scottish Government that the council’s housing targets are inadequate to meet demand, I would have thought Cllr Campbell has better things to do than pore over last year’s election literature.”

Last year, 966 affordable homes were completed across the city – while the council expects around 1,500 homes to be signed off this year, a 56 per cent increase. As of March 2018, there were 2,139 homes under construction in Edinburgh.

Cllr Campbell said: “With  a clear plan for delivery coming to committee in November, we are absolutely on track to meet our target of 10,000 affordable homes over the next five years.

“We recognise how important it is that families can afford a home in the city and it is one of our top priorities as an administration.”