Rent controls are to be introduced into part of the UK as a result of a deal between two political parties.
The Scottish National Party fell just short of an overall majority in the last elections to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, with 64 MSPs; so now it has entered into a pact with the Green Party, which was seven MSPs and which will give the combined forces an easy majority on major issues.
In a document outlining issues with the support of both parties, published over the weekend, it says an objective of the Scottish Government will be to “implement an effective national system of rent controls, enhance tenants’ rights” as well as delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032".
Green Party co-leader Lorna Slater says: “With the COP26 climate conference coming to Glasgow, Scotland is in a position show real leadership on climate. But this deal is about people as well as the planet. Together, we would deliver a new deal for tenants, giving tenants more rights and introducing rent controls to help tackle Scotland’s housing crisis.”
And Nicola Sturgeon, who remains First Minister, adds: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has reached a ground-breaking agreement with the Scottish Green Party that meets the challenges and opportunities of our time … The agreement delivers bold policy action on pressing issues. A commitment to more affordable housing, a better deal for tenants and action to tackle poverty and inequality.”
Rent controls have been a favourite Green Party policy for several years, across the UK; the party was also influential in Scotland in pushing the SNP administration to extend the eviction ban on several occasions during the pandemic.
Patrick Harvie MSP says: “Throughout the pandemic Greens have pushed ministers to protect renters and we have made substantial progress; securing the introduction and then extension of a winter eviction ban as well as a tenant hardship fund.
“While it’s essential that emergency measures are in place, we must also look at how tenants can be supported longer term too. Scotland is decades behind many of our European neighbours when it comes to tenants’ rights. Protections like winter evictions bans and rent controls are commonplace across the continent.”
No details of the scale or timetable of rent controls have yet been released by the newly-linked ruling parties at Holyrood.
Under the SNP’s Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) 2016 Act, Scottish councils have had the power to ask Scottish Ministers to designate a Rent Pressure Zone.
An RPZ is an area within which private tenants cannot have their rent raised by more than the level of the Consumer Price Index plus one per cent each year, for a duration of five years. However, few councils expressed any interest in this.
The Greens are now likely to demand something meatier.
In its manifesto for the May elections this year, the Scottish Green Party stated: “The Scottish Greens will introduce a cross-cutting goal of ensuring that housing costs represent no more than 25 per cent of a household’s income, including a points-based system of rent controls.
“The SNP’s Rent Pressure Zones have failed. It’s time for proper rent controls. Tenants unions will be absolutely key to all this, so we need to ensure all private tenants are aware and have access to one, as well be informed about their rights and welfare entitlement.”