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Living Rent launch open letter calling for protections after rent cap

Today, we launched an open letter calling for further emergency protections after the rent cap comes to an end on 31 March.

Read the open letter in full below.

Dear First Minister,

CC:
Patrick Harvie MSP
Paul McLennan MSP
Shona Robinson MSP
Shirley-Ann Somerville MSP

We write to you as trade and tenant unions, charities, and third sector organisations concerning Scotland’s rapidly worsening housing emergency. With three local authorities having declared housing emergencies, the ending of the emergency protections in the private rented sector, and inflation still greatly impacting the lives of people across Scotland, the Scottish Government must act now to prevent a series of disastrous consequences including escalating evictions, rapid increases in homelessness, and an overall rise in poverty. 

This housing emergency has been decades in the making, and one born out of political choices. Through long-term, insufficient regulation in the private rented sector, Scotland has seen an extortionate rise in private rents year-on-year: rises which far exceed both inflation and wage increases. This is a trend across the UK, and Scotland’s people need to see parliament’s devolved powers on housing meaningfully put to work.

While the unaffordability of renting is a historical problem, the cost of living crisis has made the pressures on tenants far more acute. In the past year rents across Scotland increased by 14.3%,  amounting to an average rent of £841 per month. Open market rent is significantly higher at an average of £1097 per month.  This pressure is heightened in urban areas, with Greater Glasgow rents rising  by 22.3%. In Lothian rents rose by 18.4% in the last year. It is important to note that these significant above-inflation rent hikes happened in the context of Scottish private rental sector stock increasing in number by 5,000 properties since Aug 2022.

We know that unaffordable rents are a major driver of poverty. Housing is the largest financial outgoing in most households, and while low pay is the main cause of escalating poverty rates, our market-driven housing system is the main driver of both poverty and wealth. Scotland’s lowest paid workers are forced to pay a significant proportion of their incomes on rent, with those on the minimum wage paying 50% or more of their take home pay, often on poor quality, badly insulated housing.  When measured against the existing repairing standard in 2019, 50% of  Scotland’s housing stock - across all tenures - had disrepair to a critical element.

This pressure is exacerbated  by over a decade of wage stagnation and increasing costs for essentials including energy, fuel, food, and childcare. This further impacts on poverty levels.  An estimated 11% of households in poverty were experiencing ‘very low’ food security – meaning that meals were skipped, or food intake reduced because the family could not afford enough food. The Scottish Government must deliver affordable, secure, quality housing in both the private and social sector if it is serious about achieving its 2030 poverty reduction targets. 

The scale of this housing emergency has also placed considerable strain on our already-struggling local services. Local authorities  in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Argyll and Bute have stated that they cannot fulfil their statutory duties of housing all who present homeless. Ensuring that everyone has access to a safe and affordable home is vital for alleviating pressure on other local services.  The 2024 Scottish Homelessness Monitor suggests that homelessness will rise by 33% in Scotland this year.

With bold leadership and vision, this can be prevented. We ask that you introduce a national rent cap until the introduction of  permanent and robust rent controls. Tenants across Scotland cannot afford to wait for change. The proposed  ‘transitional’ rent adjudication measures announced in January are confusing and difficult to enforce. As a result we will see people facing unaffordable rent increases up and down the country, which will act as de facto evictions and push more people into poverty. 

You have the power to address this crisis. We urge you to consider the emergency that tenants are facing post March 2024 and intervene before it reaches every local authority in Scotland. 

We would be pleased to meet with you to discuss robust and timely solutions to the housing emergency. 

Kind regards,

Ellinore Folkesson, Chair, Living Rent

Roz Foyer, General Secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress.

Lilian Macer, Regional Secretary, UNISON Scotland

Derek Thomson, Scottish Secretary, Unite

Gordon Martin, Regional Organiser, RMT Scotland

Jeanette Findlay, President, UCU Scotland

Cat Boyd,  National Officer, PCS Scotland

Rory Steel, Political Officer, GMB Scotland

Craig Anderson , Regional Secretary for the Communication Workers’ Union in Scotland

Lewis Clark, Chair, FBU Scotland East Area

BD Owens, President, Scottish Artists Union 

Jennifer McCarey, Chair, Glasgow Trades Council

Ellie Gomersall, President, NUS Scotland

Cathy Miller, Branch Secretary, UNISON NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde & CVS Branch,

Sophie Watson, Branch Secretary, UNISON University of Glasgow Branch

Amanda Cunningham, Unite CEC branch

Miriam Brett, Co-director, Future Economy Scotland

Jen Bell and Ryan Donachie, Co-convenors, Scottish Rainbow Greens

Ryan Kelly, Co-convenor, Scottish Greens Trade Union Group

Rob McDowall, Chair, Welfare Scotland

Savan Qadir, Project Manager, Refugees for Justice




 

 

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