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If we want to win the fight for rent controls in Edinburgh, we need to get our councillors on board - and what better way to do that than face-to-face? We're asking all our members and supporters in Edinburgh to meet their councillors and ask them to support our campaign.
To get started, go to this website, whack in your postcode, and e-mail your councillors saying you're one of their constituents and you'd like to meet with them to discuss housing in Edinburgh: https://www.writetothem.com/
We've also produced a handy activists' briefing to help you prepare - just scroll down to see it!
It's really important this is all well co-ordinated - so when you've got your meeting planned, let us know - we can come along to meet you before the meeting or even come along with you, and we can make sure we're tracking everything councillors are saying. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ) activists’ briefing
So you’re meeting your councillor? Just remember – they’re like spiders; more afraid of you than you are of them! This handy guide will make sure that you also know a lot more about the need for rent controls in Edinburgh than they do.
The short version:
We are asking councillors in Edinburgh to push for the introduction of a so-called Rent Pressure Zone across the city, to control rents and make housing affordable for tenants. Tell your councillor you want them to act on it, and make sure you don’t leave without getting firm commitments from them.
In 2016, the Scottish Government passed new legislation (called the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016) which gives councils the ability to classify an area as a “rent pressure zone” (or RPZ). If they do that, it would mean that landlords couldn’t increase rent by more than a certain amount year-on-year.
The case for rent controls:
Rents in Edinburgh are out of control.
- Statistics show that, over the last 7 years, rents have increased by 40% in Edinburgh – and they are projected to continue to increase at similar rates.
- Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that the number of people living in poverty who live in the private rented sector has tripled over the last decade.
- High rents trap people in private rented housing, by leaving them with not enough at the end of the month to put towards a deposit. That creates a vicious cycle where people have no other options in terms of housing.
- The effects of high rents are disproportionately felt amongst already disadvantaged groups. Women, young people, and migrant communities – who typically earn less than the average – are hit twice as hard by high rents.
- The quality of private rented housing is also unacceptable - in 2016, the Scottish House Conditions Survey found that 60% of privately rented homes was in a state of disrepair - worse than for any other tenure type. If rent controls were linked to the quality of housing, it would provide an immediate incentive for landlords to improve the quality.
- Rents controls are also really popular - every poll that’s been done on the issue shows a huge majority in favour, so it could be a big vote winner for politicians.
Common arguments against rent controls:
There are many common arguments against rent controls, but none of them stand up to scrutiny.
The myth: Rent controls would mean landlords stopped doing improvement works on properties.
The reality: Landlords aren’t making improvements as it is! The quality of private rented housing is terrible, so the current system is clearly failing. We propose a model of rent controls that links the maximum rent to the quality of the house - that is the best way to make sure improvements happen.
The myth: Rent controls would lead to supply issues and make the situation worse for tenants.
The reality: Despite what landlords might say, houses that are currently being rented out aren’t going to vanish overnight if we increase regulation. In fact, across Europe, increasing regulation has not led to a decline in the number of houses, nor has decreasing regulation led to an increase.
The myth: Rent controls don’t work anywhere else - why would we introduce them here?
The reality: Tell that to the governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, France etc etc. Lots of countries have rent controls, and they work great - Germany have just made theirs even stronger.
The myth: The real issue is supply, we just need to build more homes.
The reality: More homes would be nice, but you can’t build them overnight, and the truth is that if you just build more houses without changing the regulation, you don’t solve the problem. Across Edinburgh, almost 5,000 homes are lying empty - the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough!
The process councils have to go through to introduce rent pressure zones is a little bit complicated. Councillors would have to vote to do it, and then submit the request to the Scottish Government. The government would then agree, with the council, what the limit would be – and they’re not allowed to set the limit at less than CPI (a measure of inflation) + 1%.
In order for the government to grant the request, the council has to demonstrate three things:
- rents payable within the proposed RPZ are rising by too much; and
- the rent rises within the proposed zone are causing undue hardship to tenants; and
- the local authority is coming under increasing pressure to provide housing or subsidise the cost of housing as a consequence of the rent rises within the proposed zone.
The government has said that the legislation isn’t “intended to be applied to a whole local authority area,” but we think that the problem is Edinburgh-wide and the council should push for the whole city to be classed as a rent pressure zone. It will be up to the council to have that fight with the government.
If your councillor tries to make excuses - saying it’s not up to them, the legislation isn’t good enough, whatever - don’t let them off the hook. Ask what they’ll do about it, if they’ll raise it with the people who can change it, what steps they’ll take.
After the meeting, make sure you send an update to Living Rent Edinburgh (email address) so we can make sure all the intel is in one place.
Edinburgh Evening News: Edinburgh rents rise 40 per cent in seven years:
Joseph Rowntree Foundation: The changing face of poverty in Scotland: young adults and those privately renting now at greater risk:
The Scottish House Condition Survey 2016: key findings:
Scottish Government: Rent pressure zone application requirements for local authorities: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/rent-pressure-zone-rpz-application-requirements-local-authorities