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Scotland’s Urgent Need for Rent Controls

Gavin Stewart MSYP proposing ‘Improvements to the Rented Housing Sector’ at SYP77
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The inaccessibility of housing, especially to young people, is at a point of crisis.

Action must be taken to ensure that housing is accessible for all, and that this housing is of adequate quality for living.

At the most recent National Sitting of the Scottish Youth Parliament, where members get the opportunity to vote on motions to become SYP policy, I proposed a motion setting out SYP’s support for a system of points-based rent controls and enhanced tenants’ rights (read the full policy here), and I am very happy to say that it passed with 84% agreement!

Reforms of the private rental sector must happen. This is in order to put a halt to the unacceptably high levels of rent, for what can be, in many instances, poor quality housing. These rental prices, coming from the unnecessary chase of profit, unquestionably puts tenants into poverty. 

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), one third of Scottish tenants live in poverty, and 40% of these were driven to poverty as a result of housing costs. The JRF also singled out young people amongst the demographics hardest hit by the price of housing. This is an unacceptable state of affairs, and especially so for Scottish young people looking to find a place to live.

“As someone who has been looking to move to my own place, high rents have made that impossible even at the lowest end of the private rented sector. We need so much more regulation to ensure widespread provision of housing for all.”

Young person during consultation

We are now at a point where people simply cannot find a place to live due to astronomically high rental prices, and when we reach that point, immediate action must be taken. 

According to Scottish Government statistics, the top two regions with the highest quantity of private rental properties, Lothian and Greater Glasgow, have seen cumulative increases in average rents between 2010 and 2021 across all property sizes, with mean rent prices increasing by over 41% in this time period. This considerably outstripped inflation during this same time period, which sat at around 24%. This only emphasises further the extent as to which rental prices are increasing at a disproportionate rate, leaving housing more and more inaccessible. 

Despite this huge inflation of many of these properties’ prices, housing conditions have not improved, in fact they are in an deplorable state, with 60% of privately rented homes being in a state of disrepair, according to the 2016 Scottish House Conditions Survey, which is worse than any other tenure type. As it stands, can we trust private landlords to ensure humane living conditions for their tenants? This is why a points-based system of rent controls, where rental rates are based upon factors such as a property’s condition, is so necessary in today’s market. 

Whilst the Government has committed to introducing rent controls, the Scottish Youth Parliament believes that these should be introduced as soon as possible, that they should be a points-based system dependent on a properties’ quality rather than market value and that improved access to justice for tenants’ should be included in this.  

Reform of Scotland’s private rental sector is needed, and is needed now. 

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