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by Chris Marshall
13 May 2022
Comment: Spiralling rents are a problem the Fringe helped create

Comment: Spiralling rents are a problem the Fringe helped create

For some time, the Edinburgh property market has been out of control, rewarding greedy developers and forcing a generation of young buyers out of the city altogether.

When a friend put their £500,000 home on the market last summer, they received an offer of £601,000 within 24 hours, with the property eventually selling for close to £700,000.

While the market may have cooled slightly since the heady days of lockdown, the lack of affordable homes has left many not only resigned to never being homeowners but struggling even to afford rental properties.

I was genuinely angry after reading the story of Calum Grevers, a young man with muscular dystrophy, who has raised £32,000 for a deposit on his first home but has been unable to find anything which suits his needs in Edinburgh after a three-year search.

Not only has he struggled to find a property that meets his requirements, but he has effectively been frozen out of a Scottish Government scheme designed to help first-time buyers due to restrictions on price.

The Low-cost Initiative for First-Time buyers (Lift), a shared equity scheme, has a limit of £165,000 for a two-bedroom home – the average house price in Edinburgh is more than £300,000.

“It feels like you’re facing barrier after barrier,” Calum told the BBC.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the Fringe have been calling on local residents to offer up their homes to performers heading to the city in August for the annual arts extravaganza.

It seems rising rents are pricing artists and performers out of the market, making it difficult for them to bring their shows to the city. The Fringe has now asked locals to help out but not to charge more than £280 per person per week.

The Fringe says there are “unscrupulous landlords in Edinburgh who have pushed their accommodation rates to unacceptable levels”.

There’s a deep irony that the problem the Fringe helped create is now coming home to roost.

A festival season which once felt exciting and accessible has become synonymous with rampant commercialism and corporate greed.

It’s a state of affairs the city council has been complicit in, allowing private firms to commandeer public spaces and close them off to those who otherwise pay for their upkeep 12 months of the year. 

The Fringe brings huge benefits to Edinburgh, but like the city itself, it feels like it has lost its way. 

Despite belated efforts to address the problem of holiday lets in Edinburgh, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

Any attempts at regulation are now too late for those who have already had to leave the city behind. 

Hopefully there will be those who heed the Fringe’s call this August, offering a place to stay to the future stars of tomorrow while helping redistribute some of the wealth created by the festival season in the process.

But it should never have come to this. Tackling Edinburgh’s housing crisis should be priority number one for whichever administration eventually takes power in the City Chambers after last week's election.

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