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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Cruel Summer: exclusive - Edinburgh’s homeless forced from hotels as Taylor Swift comes to town

 

Capital’s most vulnerable being offered stays outside the city as fans flock to Murrayfield

Homeless people in Edinburgh have been informed they are to be removed from their hotel-style accommodation in the city as global superstar Taylor Swift comes to town. 

Third Force News (TFN) has been made aware of multiple homeless individuals in Edinburgh who had been removed from the hotel-style accommodation they had previously been staying in. 

City of Edinburgh Council attributed their inability to provide hotel-style temporary accommodation to the upcoming Taylor Swift concerts at Murrayfield, as well as upcoming summer holidays.

They said that due to the number of people travelling to Edinburgh and booking into hotels across the capital, there was no availability for the council to book up any rooms for those in need due to the impact of the concerts on the city. 

A report published by Barclays earlier this year suggested Taylor Swift’s current Eras tour could contribute nearly £1 billion to the UK economy. 

However, the impact on Edinburgh’s homeless population suggests a lack of ‘trickle-down’ in the economic impact. 

Swift will play three nights at Murrayfield between June 7 and 9, with an estimated 218,000 tickets sold across the three nights. 

2022 analysis by planning and development consultancy Lichfields found that there were a total of 22,331 rooms available in hotels, hostels, B&Bs, short-term let and serviced apartments across the city. 

With more than 70,000 Swifties in Edinburgh each night, the pressure on the hospitality sector will be clear, with beds in short supply. 

In Edinburgh, a total of 19 hotels, hostels and B&Bs which are still operational have been publicly listed or reported as being used as temporary accommodation for homeless individuals in Edinburgh in the past five years. These are likely to be among the more than 40 sites which are mentioned in a 2022 council report as being used to temporarily house homeless individuals in the city. 

Of those identified by TFN, only four have any availability over the weekend of June 7-9, with the cheapest room among these listed for £340 per night. One such hotel was offering its only remaining room for £1,504 per night, leaving all likely out of the budget of City of Edinburgh Council. 

Homeless Network Scotland said the reports of homeless people being removed from accommodation “lays bare the reality of the housing emergency” facing the city. The charity said in a statement: “It is appalling that people already dealing with the agony of homelessness could be forced onto the streets because of a gig. But it is also telling. The fact that a single event could have this effect lays bare the reality of the housing emergency in Edinburgh. The city is at bursting point and it’s not even festival season yet.

“Ministers have recently followed Edinburgh’s lead and declared a national housing emergency. We know the capital faces particular pressures but in times of emergency we prioritise the greatest need. 

“The Scottish Government must prioritise supporting Edinburgh and Edinburgh must prioritise helping people facing the greatest need. In the longer term, Scotland needs more investment in social and affordable housing.”

The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014, which came into effect in 2020, outlined that homeless households should not be placed in temporary accommodation that is “unsuitable”. 

The regulations are legally binding and are intended to prevent the use of B&B and hotel accommodation. 

Location can also deem accommodation unsuitable, according to the legislation. Subject to exceptions, temporary housing is also unsuitable if it is outwith the local authority area, and the household has not agreed to be accommodated there. 

Access to local facilities, utilities and existing employment should also be considered. 

However, some exceptions still exist, with time limits and basic standards still in place. 

The individuals whose stories were shared with TFN both had complex personal issues which meant they should be unable to be placed in accommodation with shared lodgings or bathrooms. 

Some were faced with a choice between inaccessible accommodation within Edinburgh, or being forced outwith the city - with no access to health or social support - to stay while Taylor Swift and her huge following is in town.

Others, who were initially placed into temporary hotel-style accommodation due to their vulnerable status, have now been assigned shared lodgings with a communal bathroom. 

Individuals being forced out of Edinburgh to stay while tourists take over the city’s hotels is nothing new. Concerns have previously been raised about the impact of the Fringe and Edinburgh Festival in August, which can see similar levels of hotel occupancy and homeless people forced out of the capital. 

Scottish Green Party councillor Ben Parker told TFN: “Green councillors remain very concerned about the number of homeless households in the city, and it is plain for anyone to see that the crisis in temporary accommodation is now well past boiling point.

“While it is nobody's ambition to see hotels used for temporary accommodation, it is simply scandalous that the mere presence of a billionaire performer can see [tens of] homeless households turfed out of the city for the weekend. Homeless individuals have as much a right as any to live their lives with dignity, and this is something which is not being afforded to them by the council. 

“Shamefully, we know that this Taylor Swift concert is not the only time that we see this practice. The Fringe Festival puts particular pressures on the provision of temporary accommodation in the city, as uncovered by my written council questions last year. That's one of the reasons why Green councillors have argued that forthcoming money raised through the city's (proposed) Tourist Tax should be permissible to spend on social housing."

Figures obtained by Cllr Parker late last year show that on 95 occasions, 87 households were placed in temporary accommodations outside of the City of Edinburgh for the 12 months to November 2023. 

Individuals spent up to three weeks outside of the city, with the average stay being seven days. Households were also forced a great distance from Edinburgh, with the average placement being nearly 40 miles from Edinburgh, and at least one household being shipped to Durham - 120 miles away. 

Vulnerable individuals, children and those with additional needs were not immune from being moved away from Edinburgh due to hotel accommodation being full. 

Data shows that 60 women and 76 children were among those shipped out of Edinburgh due to a lack of suitable hotel accommodation in the city, while a further six people with a physical support need, 21 with a mental health support need, and two with learning disabilities, included in the 95 placements outside of Edinburgh. 

When asked in November why these instances had occurred, the council responded: “People were provided with temporary accommodation outside the council’s boundaries when there was no suitable alternative accommodation in Edinburgh.”

Shelter Scotland Director Alison Watson said: “This is yet further evidence of the urgency of Scotland’s housing emergency. In Edinburgh that emergency now places people experiencing homelessness in direct competition with tourists; a blatant injustice.

“It simply should not be the case that hosting a major event at Murrayfield has significant knock on effects for people experiencing homelessness in Edinburgh. With the council having already declared a housing emergency and the Scottish Housing Regulator saying the city’s homelessness services are experiencing systemic failure, we urgently need a different response from the Scottish Government.

“We need Ministers to deliver on the promise of a national housing emergency action plan; a plan which must deliver the social homes Edinburgh needs, and ensures local services have the resources necessary to meet demand.”

Professor Duncan Maclennan of the University of Glasgow is an applied economist with interests in cities, neighbourhoods, infrastructure and housing. 

He told TFN that “any modern city requires a robust supply of short term rental options to meet economic and social demands”. 

“Most accommodation demands grow steadily and predictably but are also subject to sudden short term fluctuations. As housing demand always rises faster than supply, any demand surge creates shortage and rising market prices. This is as true for skilled workers, students, seniors and Swifties. And in shortages the rich always displace the poor. The consequences are always most damaging for the poor. There are always housing emergencies for those least able to respond. 

“We can avoid these circumstances by removing the poor from the market into well supported non-profit housing. I have argued for a doubling of such investment for the last decade. For others an adequate supply of affordable priced rental homes helps, and sensible rent controls that allow a rental return are needed, but the present morass of Scottish rental policy is diverting such investment southward.

“When governments fail to manage growth, economic activities take a free ride on the housing market. Universities draw in more students, build no student housing and exacerbate shortages. Major events, from the Swifties to the Springboks, benefit the city economy and excess profits for the space owners. 

“We need a housing strategy for the city for the decade ahead and we need ‘events’ accommodation as part of it. And we need that now. Shame on the rapacious hotels and shame on the politicians who fail to shape a flexible housing system.”

Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work convener at City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Jane Meagher, said: “It is a symptom of the housing emergency we face in Edinburgh that at times we must use tourist accommodation to house homeless households. We know it won’t be available year-round, particularly over the busy summer months, so we use it reluctantly as a last resort.

“We’re aware of the situation and are working with the affected households to find appropriate, alternative accommodation.”

 

Comments

0 0
John Smith
15 days ago

Nice alarmist headline. I was under the impression that 'swifties' have been booking these rooms months in advance whereby the Local Authority only try to book rooms with a weeks notice to the hotel. Poor forward planning from the LA i believe.

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ROB MCINTOSH
11 days ago

Maybe the tourist tax could be used in future to create more council accommodation for the homeless.....