Rent Pressure Zones – Good, but not a magic bullet.

Image result for private landlords edinburgh

Ben Macpherson MSP appears to have a very short memory (Comment, 17/07/17). Yes, the SNP did legislate to allow the introduction of Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) in Scotland. They did so, however, only after concerted lobbying from Shelter, Crisis, the Greens and Labour.

Indeed, the initial plan proposed by the SNP Government meant that it could reject any application to create a RPZ without even having to give a reason for doing so – it took a Green amendment to stop that.

Furthermore, it was not the SNP that championed the creation of RPZs in our Capital City. The motion was brought by Cllr Susan Rae (Greens) and was supported by the Labour Group.

Although a RPZ will limit the activities of the worst landlords, it is important to note that it won’t stop the continuation of the 25% increase in rents we’ve seen over the past 6 years. This is because that rise is entirely due to new lets, and the RPZ legislation the SNP brought forward only applies to sitting tenants on the new “Private Residential Tenancy” agreements.

Furthermore, the legislation limits rent increases to inflation plus 1% (unless otherwise specified higher). With inflation currently at 2.9%, that would mean new tenancies could increase by 25.8% over a six year period. There would be riots if mortgage payments rose at that rate – particularly when most people’s pay is not rising with inflation.

So whilst RPZs may be welcome, they are not a magic bullet. What’s really needed is more affordable housing – and I mean genuinely affordable. In particular, the supply of accommodation in the rented sector must be increased.

That’s why I won’t be letting the SNP Government water down its commitment to build 50,000 new affordable homes with “refurbishments” as they plan.

I have also asked the City of Edinburgh Council if there’s a business case for buying back former council houses at the market rate as they come up for sale (thanks Sheila). I believe that this would both increase the availability of rented accommodation and cut the amount of Housing Benefit filling the pockets of private landlords.

We need a rented sector in Edinburgh that works for the many, not the few.

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