Edinburgh which has formally declared an housing emergency has broken the law that prevents the homeless being placed in 'unsuitable' temporary accommodation 2,200 times over a year and a half.

The Herald can reveal the council breached the law around use of 'unsuitable' temporary accommodation 1428 times last year and 772 times in the first six months of this year.

The number of breaches has risen from an average of 357 per quarter in 2022 to 386 per quarter in the first half of 2023.

The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order is legally binding and ensures that people have access to decent living accommodation.

It comes as the number of children in temporary accommodation in Edinburgh has more than doubled since before the Covid pandemic rising from 1,260 in March 31, 2019 to 2,755 in March 31, 2023.

The number of households in temporary accommodation in the capital is the highest in Scotland and has also more than doubled since before the pandemic from 1515 in 3,560 in March 31, 2023.

READ MORE: Revealed: 100s of Scots homeless seeking official help turned away

And the number of live homelessness cases Edinburgh is dealing with has nearly doubled from 3,364 in March 31, 2019 to 6,372 on March 31, 2023 - the highest of any local authority in Scotland.

In 2019, the then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that unsuitable temporary accommodation breaches "should not be tolerated" and said it would consider introducing sanctions on those councils that fail to comply as part of plans to "transform temporary accommodation".

The Herald: Nicola Sturgeon addressed journalists at Holyrood on Tuesday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A property is deemed unsuitable if it does not meet certain criteria, for example it is not wind and watertight, does not meet minimum safety standards or lacks adequate bedrooms, toilet and personal washing facilities.

Experts say that the order seeks to prevent the long-term use of bed and breakfast accommodation, hotels, hostels and shelters.

Local authorities are in breach when placing a homeless household in accommodation not meeting the requirements of the order for more than seven days.

Scots councils are known to have warned the government that there would be breaches due to a lack of supply of affordable social housing.

A formal declaration of a housing emergency was made by the City of Edinburgh Council after charities warned of a "chronic shortfall" in homes for social rent.

The council's housing convener Jane Meagher tabled the motion to declare the emergency on Thursday highlighting a "crisis" in both the public and private sectors.

The Edinburgh Poverty Commission in its Just Capital report in 2020 called for 2,000 new homes for social rent to be built in the city each year for the next ten years, double the build rate planned by the City of Edinburgh Council at that time.

Actual completions in the three years since have been 257, 247 and 451, described as a "chronic shortfall, exacerbated by current predictions of a fall in completions", the commission said.

The Scottish Tenants' Organisation said that it was "absolutely imperative" that the Scottish Government give emergency investment to homelessness services and to build more social rented homes in the immediate period.

"This emergency declaration is just a further vindication of STO's demands that 10s of millions have to be spent in homelessness services in Scotland and to build tens of thousands of new social rented homes in Scotland," the group said.


"This cannot wait. It is an emergency now. We consider that the situation in Glasgow is similarly an emergency.

"The Scottish Government has to step up to the plate and implement an emergency budget to stop homeless people dying on the streets this winter."

Shelter Scotland said: “People in the capital are crying out for action – every level of government has a duty to respond.

“The declaration of a housing emergency is just the start of the journey."

An Edinburgh council source said that because of the housing challenges in the capital, people are put in unsuitable accommodation when temporary accommodation is full, as the only other option is on the streets or another local authority area.

"People are staying in suitable temporary accommodation too long, because of issues with the supply of permanent and social housing," said the source.

The council source said Edinburgh had the lowest proportion of social housing in the country and biggest, most expensive, private rented sector.

The unsuitable Scottish Government accommodation order was extended to all households from May, 2020. The law previously applied only when housing pregnant women or families with children.

Local authorities were given an exemption from having to comply with the extended law until September 2021 if the temporary accommodation was being used for self-isolation or social distancing purposes, or if the council could not find suitable accommodation due to the impact of Covid on supply.

The Edinburgh council source said that shared houses and bed and breakfast accommodation were deemed unsuitable.

The source said: "Around 70% of available council homes are let to homeless households, with the remainder of homes let to people with gold or other priority needs.

"This is despite us having had one of the most ambitious housebuilding strategies in Scotland in recent decades and continuing to build as many new homes as we can afford where we can.

The Herald: Edinburgh city skyline as viewed from Calton Hill.

"And despite doubling our homelessness between 20/21 and 23/24, we have focused our efforts on prevention and helping people to stay in their current homes, given the many challenges households face.

"In recent years a huge amount of effective work has taken place to tackle root causes and recurring issues when it comes to homelessness.

"During Covid we near enough ended rough sleeping by using emergency forms of accommodation, but technically unsuitable.

"But we’re seeing homelessness rise again, and face rising construction costs building new homes, while residents continue to experience the high cost of living and high rent."

Housing minister Paul McLennan has said "tackling homelessness is a key priority" for the government.

He said the Scottish government was making available £3.5bn over this parliamentary term to support delivery of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, with 70% of those for social rent.

He added: "This includes investing at least £60m to help local authorities and registered social landlords acquire properties for use as high quality, affordable, permanent homes.

"Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans play an important role in Scotland's homelessness strategy and aim to reduce the need for temporary accommodation.

"We have provided local authorities with £52.5m between 2018-24 for their plans to support people into settled accommodation."