‘Housing emergency’ blamed for lack of homeless accommodation during Swift shows

Edinburgh City Council has blamed a “housing emergency” for a lack of homeless accommodation in the city during the Taylor Swift concerts in June.

The local authority said it is not removing homeless people to “make way” for fans, but rather it may struggle to book accommodation for them due to a surge in demand for tourist accommodation around the time of the US singer’s appearances in the capital.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to travel to Edinburgh to see the singer perform three shows at Murrayfield stadium on June 7, 8 and 9.

Councillor Jane Meagher, housing, homelessness and fair work convener, said the “housing emergency” in the capital meant the council sometimes relied on temporary tourist accommodation to house homeless families, but at busy times this is not always available.

She 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.”

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson described homeless people having to compete with tourists for accommodation as a “blatant injustice” and called for ministers to deliver “their promised  national housing emergency action plan” to address the problem.

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is playing three concerts in Edinburgh at the start of June (Doug Peters/PA)

She said: “This situation 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.

“Our frontline services have seen people in need of a bed tonight being told their only option is to leave the city. A family going through the trauma of homelessness in Edinburgh should not have to move miles from their job, school and community to find emergency accommodation.”

She warned that without action “we can expect more of the same when the festival kicks off in a few weeks’ time”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, whose constituency includes Murrayfield in the west of Edinburgh, said a number of measures are needed to address housing issues in the city.

He said: “First is advanced planning – the festival and big concert events like Taylor Swift, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the council.

“So, if they are block-booking rooms for temporary accommodation, do it with those in mind, so you don’t have to tear people out because it’s a really traumatic thing to be in temporary accommodation.”

He added that the council needed to make more “void” council-owned properties available but said there is also a need to “build more houses”.