Blog: Landlords and others must be part of benefits solution

John Blackwood

Landlords are ready to play their part to help ensure households on lower incomes are not priced out of city living, says John Blackwood at the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL).

Last February, I wrote in the Edinburgh Evening News that “when it comes to improving social conditions for those on the lowest income in society…. in the private sector are often ignored” when I welcomed the move to allow the housing cost element of Universal Credit to be paid direct to private landlords as happens in the social housing sector.

I continue to believe that this step has encouraged more private landlords to try and rent to those in receipt of benefits but, as the figures published recently show, there remains a problem particularly in cities such as Edinburgh where a lack of supply of all types of housing have driven up prices, be that to buy or rent.

So, while the move on Universal Credit has prevented the problem becoming worse, there is undoubtedly a housing crisis which we must tackle. There are two elements to this. First, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) must reflect the differences in supply and demand across the country. This is not about subsidising private landlords but acknowledging that, in a time of restricted supply, landlords facing increased costs and tight margins will always rent a property to tenants who can afford to pay. If governments wish to see more diverse populations in city centres, as they should, they must ensure a fairer benefits system to help those most in need find a home.

This leads me to my second point, the need to increase and diversify supply within city centres. We need a planned approach where we see private housing for sale, affordable housing to buy, private landlords, social landlords and an element of homes for reduced rent available side by side. This is not an easy thing to achieve but with all sides agreeing that there is housing crisis, it surely is not beyond us to come up with a solution to increases the supply of the right type of housing, in the right area and for the right price.

SAL is ready to do our part to address these problems to ensure that those on lower incomes do not feel they are isolated and pushed out of city centres.

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