Housing leaders urged to review homeless facilities

Edinburgh housing chiefs are facing demands to clamp down on poor homeless accommodation after new laws were introduced which are set to lead to far greater demands on services.

Calls have been made for a review of standards into so-called “homeless HMOs”, which allow guest houses that provide temporary quarters to operate.

Opposition leaders at the city council said recent cases had highlighted poor facilities which cost taxpayers around £400 per person, per month.

This includes complaints against the Acorn Guest House in Pilrig – where dirty hypodermic needles were found in December and which faces losing its HMO (house in multiple occupation) licence at a review this month – and the explosion at the Longstone Guest House in August.

As of December 31, Scottish local authorities must provide accommodation for every family or individual who presents themselves as homeless.

Before, councils had to house all of those for 28 days, before deciding on priority.

Steve Burgess, convener of the Edinburgh Greens, said: “I simply do not believe that the standards for ordinary HMOs are sufficient to safeguard the interests of a vulnerable group of residents who have almost no bargaining power.

“They need the council to stand up for their interests.Improving standards – of property, of management and of support for people – is good for residents, neighbours and the public purse.”

Figures also show that 4441 households told the council they were homeless in 2011-12, and of these 3548 were judged priority cases.

Cammy Day, the city’s housing leader, said he accepted demands on services would increase, but that the council would work to prevent families losing their homes first.

He said: “While we are pleased to see the number of homeless presentations has slightly reduced, the imminent welfare reforms will place additional burdens on families and we will lead to more crises.

“We will do everything to meet this new legislation, but we need to focus on preventative measures.

“I should also make clear that many of cases aren’t people who sleep rough. They are families who are struggling to pay rent, struggling to pay their mortgage or that have had a slip in family life and found themselves in crisis.”