Councillors to discuss possibility of Rent Pressure Zone for Inverness

Inverness Castle and riversideCouncillors are to consider moves to introduce a Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) across Inverness following claims of “extortionate” sums being charged.

According to the Inverness Courier, single bedroom flats and even some bedsits in the city are currently being rented at about £500 per month, with two-bedroom flats attracting a rent of around £800.

Councillors Richard Laird and Ron McWilliam have tabled a motion for the full council meeting on Thursday, calling on the local authority to investigate setting up RPZs for Inverness and other communities facing similar private rents pressure.

Designed to cap any future increase in rent in a local authority area, RPZs will become available as part of the new Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill which is due to come in to place from December 1.

Councils can apply to ministers to have an area designated as an RPZ if they can prove that private rents in the area are rising too much, are causing problems for tenants, or that the local council is coming under pressure to provide housing or subsidise the cost of housing as a result.

If an area is designated an RPZ it means a cap, or maximum limit, is set on how much rents are allowed to increase for existing tenants with a private residential tenancy each year in that area.

Scottish ministers must consult landlords’ and tenants’ representatives before they make any area an RPZ.

A motion to commission a feasibility study to investigate the possibility of introducing RPZs across Glasgow was approved by councillors last month, while Scottish Green councillors in Edinburgh said the entire capital city should be the first in Scotland to use the new legal powers.

In their motion councillors Richard Laird and Ron McWilliam said: “Highland Council notes the unprecedented high rents for private sector housing in Inverness and the pressure this places on both the Highland Housing Register and those individuals and families seeking a home in the city.

“The council therefore agrees to examine and report back on the feasibility of applying for a Rent Pressure Zone for Inverness and any other community in the Highlands facing similarly expensive housing rents.”

Councillor Laird, Inverness Central ward, said: “Some of the private rents now are extortionate and it is almost impossible for young single folk to live in Inverness.

“One of the main reasons for this is that there is not enough affordable housing in Inverness, and under the right to buy, very few council homes are available for rent.

“I know of one month where 1850 people applied for one-bedroom flats in Inverness and 704 for two-bedroom.”

Councillor McWilliam, for Ness-side, added: “There are multiple problems in the property market which make it difficult for local people to secure decent housing.

“The SNP government is investing in social housing, with 50,000 affordable homes being built in this parliament, 35,000 for affordable rent.

“Ending ‘right to buy’ and rebuilding the social rented stock will make the housing market work again, but it will take time to reduce private rental demand.

“We need this (RPZ) to calm private rent increases and raise standards of quality.

“Creating rent pressure zones in the Highlands could be a sensible, proportionate measure to stop landlords from getting too greedy during periods of extreme demand.

“It is both unfair and socially harmful that private rents increase many times more than wage inflation simply due to market demand.

“Rent pressure zones ought to help alleviate some of that suffering.”

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