Taylor Swift effect: Homeless taxied out of Edinburgh to make room for concert fans

FILE - According to reports, numerous unhoused people in Edinburgh, Scotland are being sent out of the city to clear hotel accommodation for inbound tourists visiting for Taylor Swift's June 2024 concerts. Pedro Gomes/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

As Scottish Taylor Swift fans ready their friendship bracelets and learn their lyrics for the star’s upcoming concerts in Edinburgh, swaths of the capital’s homeless population are reportedly being sent away to make room for tourists.

The Scottish outlet TFN was first to claim numerous unhoused persons in Edinburgh were removed from the hotel-like accommodations they had previously been staying in. The news outlet said the Edinburgh City Council made the choice in order to accommodate lodging shortages for out-of-town Swifties and summer vacationers.

Swift, 34, will be playing three shows in Edinburgh at Murrayfield Stadium from June 7 to June 9.

According to the BBC, many of the unhoused people affected were sent by taxi to nearby cities like Glasgow and Aberdeen. One person was offered accommodation in the city of Newcastle, some 160 kilometres from Edinburgh, they reported.

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The outlet did, however, contradict the TFN reporting and claimed there is no evidence of homeless populations being forced out of hotel-style accommodation where they were already staying.

The BBC said it is those who have recently declared homelessness — and would have usually been offered accommodation in the city — that are being sent outside of Edinburgh. (In Scotland, there is a legal obligation to provide emergency shelter to people who have legally declared they are unhoused.)

Edinburgh City Council said it was “absolutely not” evicting people in temporary emergency housing to make way for concertgoers.

The Council’s housing convenor, Councillor Jane Meagher, said using tourist accommodation for homeless populations in Edinburgh is a “last resort.”

“We know it won’t be available year-round, particularly over the busy summer months, so we use it reluctantly as a last resort,” she told the BBC. “We’re aware of the situation and are working with the affected households to find appropriate, alternative accommodation.”

Homeless Network Scotland called the reports “appalling” and said the incident “lays bare the reality of the housing emergency” in the country.

“It is appalling that people already dealing with the agony of homelessness could be forced onto the streets because of a gig. But it is also telling,” the organization wrote in a statement. “The city is at bursting point and it’s not even festival season yet.”

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“The Scottish Government must prioritise supporting Edinburgh and Edinburgh must prioritise helping people facing the greatest need. In the longer term, Scotland needs more investment in social and affordable housing,” Homeless Network Scotland concluded.

Edinburgh declared a housing emergency last year, with many councillors calling for greater funding and social supports. This month, the Scottish government followed suit and declared a national housing emergency.

TFN reported there are 19 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Edinburgh that have publicly said they have been used as temporary accommodation for unhoused people over the past five years. Of the 19, only four locations had availability during the weekend of Swift’s concerts, with the cheapest room listed for £340 (about C$590) a night.

Some housing advocates and organizations in Edinburgh are already anticipating similar measures to do with relocating unhoused people during the city’s Fringe Festival in August.

On home soil, Swift will soon bring her always-popular Eras Tour to Canada. The Cruel Summer singer will belt out her hits through six shows in Toronto, beginning on November 14, and will return to visit West Coast fans in Vancouver for three shows starting December 6.

Already, both cities are working to accommodate the influx of Swifties that will be in town to attend the concerts, with conversations revolving around accommodation, economy and traffic congestion.

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Many hotels in Toronto and Vancouver have been fully booked for the tour dates since last year. Any fans still looking for concert accommodations are likely to face astronomical hotel prices.

This month, Toronto mayor Olivia Chow fretted over highway construction in the city and said officials are doing “everything” possible to mitigate the disruptions caused by major roadwork on the Gardiner Expressway. When asked if the city would reopen the 60-year-old Gardiner for Swift’s shows, Chow replied: “We have to rebuild the Gardiner. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Click to play video: 'N.S. Taylor Swift fan goes to extreme for tickets'
N.S. Taylor Swift fan goes to extreme for tickets

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