The “single most important” part of reducing poverty in Edinburgh is tackling the housing crisis, according to a new report.
The Edinburgh Poverty Commission (EPC) released their report on Wednesday, which found that almost one in three families in the city living below the poverty line are only in that position due to their housing costs.
This compares with one in eight households who are in poverty across the country as a whole.
More than 77,000 Edinburgh residents live in poverty – about 15% of the total population, including one in every five children.
Dr James McCormick, chairman of the EPC, said that the housing crisis was a “distinctively Edinburgh challenge, because so many families are only dragged below the poverty line by an unaffordable rent”.
He added that a big chunk of the city’s poverty issues could be solved if the housing profile was expanded.
The report called for 20,000 more affordable homes to be built in Edinburgh over the next decade.
Dr McCormick, who is also associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “If you’re working you should not be poor – it’s as simple as that.
“The single most important part is solving Edinburgh’s housing crisis.”
However, Dr McCormick believes that private landlords also have a part to play, saying: “People are being housed in quite high cost private rented accommodation.
“What’s really helpful is when some of those homes are brought into the private leasing pool for the city, so landlords get a three-year deal they get security of income and some degree of predictability about costs.
“The private rented sector has a crucial long-term role to play in the city.
“What we’re saying is too many families are there long term when they can’t afford to be.
“They’re constrained not through choice, and so if people can move over time into lower cost tenancies that goers a very long way to bring down housing costs sustainably.
“The other thing it does importantly is it improves work incentives.
“If you’re facing a very expensive rent and the jobs available to you are minimum wage or just above, then even with universal credit improving tapers, it will often not be worth your while taking that job, when you factor in child care costs.
“So secure tenancies, lower rents are good, not just for housing, but for work.”
Dr McCormick said that he would be against exploring rent control in the city, saying: “I think we’re not persuaded by the case for some of the things that have been tried in other counties because they tend to have a detrimental effect if we’re not careful on supply of housing.”
Cammy Day, Labour depute leader of Edinburgh City Council, added that the council had also been pushing for regulation on short term let, Air BnB style accommodation in the city.
He said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that on an average day in Edinburgh we’ve got 500 people in temporary accommodation yet hundreds of houses lying empty for probably 75% of the year, only being used for Festival times.”
He added that the council had been pushing the government for rent pressure zones to be brought in, to “curtail some of the ridiculous rents in the capital city”.
However, Mr Day added: “It’s not proven successful entirely yet but I hope we’re still on that path, to get as many tools the city can to stop rogue landlords and stop high private rents being the reason why somebody can’t have a safe and warm family home to live in.”
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