We’ve launched our proposals for rent controls in Scotland, seeking to control the price of housing, improve quality and tackle gentrification in our cities. More than being another policy, rent controls push back against the power that landlords have over tenants, by ensuring what landlords charge is equivalent to the property’s standard. All renters will benefit from this change but especially the young, black and minority ethnicity communities, migrants and the working class people as they earn less and are disproportionately represented in the private residential sector.
The median income for a landlord in the UK is over £60,000 and more than half are 55 or over [i], a starkly different demographic to those who rent. Meanwhile, the annual average Scottish wage after tax is £18,830[ii] whilst the average landlord pulls in £17,300 per year[iii] from rent. This means that they only need to work for a couple of weeks to match what you make in a year.
There is a stark difference between those who live in the property and those who own it, they are two groups standing in contrast. One on the backs of the other. We work hard and watch our wages stagnate, constrained by austerity as our landlords watch from the side unaffected. This power imbalance has been maintained for too long and rent controls are a step towards addressing it.
Criticisms of rent controls take a few different forms; alleged supply side issues, scale of regulation and other misinformation - Living Rent has spoken against these issues before. One of the most common arguments is that landlords would leave the sector if we introduce more regulation. But this is nonsense. A home isn’t the same as other products, whilst factories can move abroad and shops to new premise, bricks and mortar can’t be packed up and removed. If landlords want to leave, they will sell to tenants or to another landlord that will work within the rent controls. We should not let the potential actions of those who own our homes dictate the laws we want to implement.
The current policy of Rent Pressure Zones is not only unworkable, but would have next to no impact on the unaffordability of rents in the long-term. This insufficient attempt at rent controls is a missed opportunity to address a substantial range of problems in the housing sector. It considers only urban areas, which offers little hope and change for those living in Scotland's towns and villages. Moreover, it does not change the fact that rent in big cities is too high and does not attempt to reverse the negative effects of gentrification. What we are proposing is different, a new form of rent controls.
Living Rent’s proposal deals with more than the cost of housing—it seeks to affect quality too. This is the missed opportunity of historic legislation. By securing the right to quality housing we can more effectively fight other social problems exacerbated by poor quality housing. We know that poor educational performance is linked to problems at home[iv] - more security and safety can fix that, and can help each child achieve their full potential. Those that grow up in areas of deprivation are at a greater risk of developing health complications and die younger[v]: a good quality home, free of damp, mould and stress would stop this. Racist sentiments are stoked in communities with poor quality housing as groups feel they must compete for the best properties: by raising the standard of all properties and making them affordable we can combat this.
Whilst rent controls may not solve every problem in this country, they will vastly reduce money-related stress, and allow more wages to be spent on meeting emotional needs rather than filling the pockets of already wealthy landlords. We want to hand power back to renters and rent controls can help do this. We call on the Scottish government to reopen the Housing Act and implement our proposals. Beyond this there are still more issues to address and that can’t be done individually. Living Rent is a union and it is our firm belief that together we are strong and our collective voice immutable. Join Living Rent today and together we will change housing in Scotland forever. - https://www.livingrent.org/join
If you're with us, add your name to the petition for Rent Controls: livingrent.org/rentcontrols
Rent Control Proposals here