Highland Council needs more research before making rent pressure zone application

More research and local dialogue is required in order for Highland Council to consider making a rent pressure zone (RPZ) application, councillors have heard.

Section 35 of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 enables local authorities to apply to Scottish Ministers to ask that all or part of their authority’s area be 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.

Highland Council agreed in October last year to examine the feasibility of applying for an RPZ for Inverness and any other community in Highland facing similarly expensive rents.

Councillors on the care, learning and housing committee were updated on the implications of such a move earlier this week.

David Goldie, head of housing and building maintenance, said: “The application process and criteria involved for achieving designation of a rent pressure zone are rigorous and will have resource implications for the council.

“Applications require a firm evidence base. However there is no local or national reporting or existing published data on the evidence required. The guidance implies that evidence would need to be established through specific local research, with the emphasis on face to face contact / interviews with tenants affected.

“It is unlikely, based on the rent data published at broad housing market area level, that evidence would support a rent pressure zone for the whole council area. Further detailed evidence will be required to consider more local applications.”

Cllr Andrew Baxter, chair of the care and learning committee, said: “I thank David and his team for the research and work they have done so far and the committee notes that it will take time and resources to develop the evidence base to support applications in Highland, and that there is no specific budget provision for this.

“Councillors are however, in agreement that the council should continue dialogue with other councils, COSLA, and Scottish Government officers in developing a common approach to research and data collection that would support successful applications for rent pressure zones.”

Councillors also agreed that discussion take place locally with Ward Members, where requested, to discuss specific local issues of affordability in the Private Rented Sector that might help in identifying specific locations in which to target evidence gathering in future.

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