Calls for stronger rent controls and housing reform renewed as rising private rents revealed

Caitlin Logan

Average private rents increasing across all property sizes, official statistics show

LIVING RENT AND COMMON WEAL have called for the Scottish Government and local authorities to take action to make housing affordable as official statistics published on Tuesday reveal that private rent increased on average over the last year by 4 per cent for one bedroom properties, 4.4 per cent for two bedrooms, 4.6 per cent for three bedrooms, and 4.9 per cent for four bedroom properties.

For two bedroom properties, which is the most common type of private rented accommodation, 15 out of 18 areas of Scotland saw an annual increase, and the average increase this year was at its greatest since 2010.

For Lothian and Greater Glasgow, the overall average increase since 2010 has been greater than the rate of inflation.

Living Rent, the tenants’ union, responded to the new statistics by calling for stronger rent controls and greater provision of social housing.

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A spokesperson for Living Rent said: “We are alarmed but, sadly, not shocked by the latest figures on rent increases in Scotland.

“We are hearing about the effects of this first hand from our members in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The private rented sector has become almost entirely unaffordable, with people being left with very little to live on once they’ve paid the rent.

“These latest figures are further evidence that we need to act quickly to ensure we receive proper, workable rent controls in the PRS, [and] to demand better social housing for the future.

“The tenants’ movement is building momentum to fight extortionate rents, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Living Rent launched a campaign this week – using the hashtag #Winterbreak – to outlaw winter evictions in a bid to end homelessness deaths, following a report from Shelter Scotland which found that eviction is the leading cause of homelessness.

A spokesperson explained: “In Glasgow we are facing an ever increasing number of tenants coming to us facing eviction. We have seen nearly 1 eviction case a day in November of this year already.

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“Tenants across Scotland are in desperate need of a winter break. Ending the practice of evictions during the winter will help to protect vulnerable people and prevent deaths.”

In real terms, the data released on Tuesday means that on average, the rent for one bedroom properties has risen from £482 in 2016 to £501 in 2017; rent for two bedroom properties has increased from £616 in 2016 to £643 in 2017; three bedrooms have increased from £753 to £787, and four bedrooms have risen from £1,089 to £1,143.

The Common Weal think-tank has responded to the data by urging local authorities to use new powers to apply for a rent cap and calling on the Scottish Government to improve the effectiveness of rent controls through an “index of affordability” and to prioritise social housing over subsidies for property developers.

Ben Wray, Common Weal Head of Policy, who authored a report last month on data on the experience of living in the Private Rented Sector, said: “The cost of private rent has got out of control.

“For those struggling on low incomes, every pound extra spent on rent is a pound less on essentials like food and heating. While rents have risen by one-third in Edinburgh and Glasgow since 2010, wages have stagnated. It can’t go on like this.

“Local authorities with above inflation rent rises must use new powers to apply for a rent cap in their area immediately. Residents should use this new data to inform their local councillors of the need to apply for a rent cap.

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“But this will not be sufficient. The rent cap only limits rents to inflation plus 1 per cent. Currently that means 4 per cent, but wages are not rising that fast. A cap will not make housing affordable for those who have experienced huge rises since 2010. Serious action is needed.

“The Scottish Government should strengthen rent controls by establishing a mechanism for tying rent prices to an index of affordability.

“And the Scottish Government must get its priorities right – instead of more subsidies for property developers and landlords, as it has proposed to do in the new Rental Income Guarantee Scheme, it must rapidly increase the size and speed of it social housebuilding programme.

“Social housebuilding can be made significantly cheaper by legislative change such as land value capture and compulsory sales orders which will reduce the cost of land in the construction process.”

Across Scotland, private rents have increased on average by a fifth since 2010, while for Greater Glasgow and Lothian, rents have increased by a third.

Picture courtesy of Living Rent

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