Security, quality housing and lower rents priority for new union
HOUSING CAMPAIGNERS have launched ambitious plans to build Scotland’s first national union for people living in the private rented sector.
Living Rent – which has been at the forefront of move to strengthen tenants’ rights – have launched as a national membership organisation to represent the interests of those struggling for justice in the housing sector.
The union aims to replicate the success of other European tenants unions, such as in Sweden where a tenants union represents thousands of people.
Liz Ely, acting chair of Living Rent, said: “Right now, too many landlords can get away with charging rip off rents for poor quality housing, and tenants are paying the price. The private rented sector is regulated like it’s just another business venture, but the reality is that hundreds and thousands of Scots rely on private landlords to keep a roof over their heads. We need real rent controls, proper regulations and representation for tenants.
“Over the past two years, we’ve heard countless stories of tenants struggling with sky-high rents, unsafe housing conditions, and illegal evictions. It doesn’t have to be this way – in many European countries, large, active tenants’ unions provide support to their members and negotiate housing policy at the local and national level.
“Housing isn’t a luxury good but a basic necessity – without strong safeguards and balanced policy-making, tenants will continue to struggle in a housing market that puts the interests of private profit first. Living Rent will work to make sure that every tenant in Scotland has a safe, affordable and secure home to go to.”
Membership – open to anyone living in the tenanted sector – is set at £3 a month, with funds then focused on campaigning and to establish a hardship fund.
Living Rent successfully campaigned for the reintroduction of moderate, localised rent control measures in the Private Housing (Tenancies) Act 2016. The Act also signalled growing support for greater security in the rented sector, where prices have soared in hot-spots like Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.
Journalist Lesley Riddoch supported the launch.
“It’s good to see the campaign for a living rent because without it the living wage is next to meaningless,” Riddoch said.
“Private renting is no longer a temporary phase of life for students, young people and folk on the move – it’s become a permanent and very expensive destination for tens of thousands of Scots.
“This Scottish tenants union is a great idea – borrowed from Sweden – which means tenants can help protect one another from the worst excesses of the worst landlords. It’s the start of a more level playing field in the private rented sector and that should benefit everyone.”
Campaigns for housing justice have played a key role in Scotland’s 20th century political developments. The rent strikes of 1915-16 represented a surge in radical activism, which triumphed in establishing rent controls.
However, the growth in financial property speculation over past decades – with house prices soaring by 500 per cent – has deepened the division between those who own property and younger generations seeking somewhere stable and affordable to live.
Douglas Robertson, Professor of Housing at the University of Stirling and member of the Scottish Government Private Rented Sector Strategy Group, added: “In all tenancy matters a strong and vigorous private tenants association – as is common throughout Europe, given the higher proportion of such rented properties – is a critical component.
“Having tenancy rights defined in law is all well and good, but they can only function if people have the confidence to use them. A strong democratic tenants’ body is critical to ensuring such confidence.”
Picture courtesy of Living Rent
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