taylor swift singing on stage in a new outfit
(Kevin Mazur/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management )

Edinburgh’s Unhoused Sent Out of the City to Make Way for Swifties

I love the smell of dystopia in the morning.

Once again demonstrating that there are no good billionaires and that late-stage capitalism is a corrosive force on society, the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, is relocating members of its unhoused population to make way for Taylor Swift fans in the run-up to her performances there between June 7 – 9.

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The Scottish capital has been facing a housing crisis for some time, exacerbated by the explosion of Airbnb rentals as landlords convert former long-term residential properties into more profitable short-term lets. It’s not the only popular tourism destination facing this problem, and while other cities are taking steps to ban or limit the app and other short-term rentals, Edinburgh council was prevented from taking similar action last year when landlords took the city council to court over it and won.

One of the ways the city is handling its housing and homelessness crisis is by providing rough sleepers and other unhoused residents with emergency temporary housing in hotel rooms. Intended as an extremely temporary measure, these hotel rooms are only booked for seven days at a time, with the aspiration that more permanent housing will have been found in the meantime. Unfortunately, this housing frequently fails to manifest. If the hotel room they’ve been placed in has been booked out by someone else in the meantime, the council and other organizations that serve the unhoused will have to find them someplace else.

Housing the city’s unhoused in hotels was only ever intended as an emergency option; one that would be rarely used and only when no other options were available. However, as the city’s housing crisis has grown it’s become an increasingly common first resort, posing a significant problem when tourism surges, providing competition for hotel rooms. When it comes to fixed high points in the city’s tourist trade, such as the various annual festivals held over the year, the city council and organizations that serve the unhoused can plan around them to an extent.

One-off events like Swift’s U.K. leg of The Era’s Tour have a much less predictable impact on the city, however, making it significantly more difficult to create a viable alternative for unhoused residents. Add in the sheer scale of out-of-town visitors flocking in to see Swift perform, booking up nearly every hotel room in town over the three-day period and driving up prices significantly, and the already stretched emergency accommodation service is now in serious trouble.

While the city has said it won’t be evicting anyone already situated in a hotel room during Swift’s concert stint in favor of visiting Swifties, that doesn’t help the people whose seven-day emergency accommodation will expire during her visit but for whom no permanent accommodation has become available. Instead of the council being able to rebook them into another hotel, these Edinburgh residents are likely to be sent to other cities—something that’s already happening in the run-up to Swift’s visit. People have been sent to Glasgow and Aberdeen so far, with one resident even being offered temporary accommodation in the English city of Newcastle instead of something closer to home. Not only is this solution cruel, given many unhoused people have jobs, families, and friends in their hometowns, but, in the case of children attending local schools, it will also severely disrupt their lives even further than homelessness already has, limiting their chances of escaping it in the future.

Is this solely Taylor Swift’s fault? No, this is the result of corporate greed from multiple sources and poor housing policies on a national level. Could she, however, as a billionaire, have looked into the cities she was going to be performing in and used some of her wealth to mitigate the harms it would inflict on their most vulnerable residents? Yes, absolutely.

(via BBC Scotland News)


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Author
Siobhan Ball
Siobhan Ball (she/her) is a contributing writer covering news, queer stuff, politics and Star Wars. A former historian and archivist, she made her first forays into journalism by writing a number of queer history articles c. 2016 and things spiralled from there. When she's not working she's still writing, with several novels and a book on Irish myth on the go, as well as developing her skills as a jeweller.