Letter to the Editor: Rent ‘freezes’ and affordable/social housing
I imagine your readers will be aware of my concerns about the conflation of the terms ‘affordable’ and ‘social’ when used to describe housing.
Transparency and accuracy in the use of words are essential if we hope to monitor and hold to account developers (including RSLs) and local and national governments and their progress towards achievement of targets like 110000 new ‘affordable’ homes, 70% of which would be for social rent.
But the smoke and mirrors continue to be used. Recent examples in SHN include not only announcements of new developments of ‘affordable’ housing (which on further reading are actually all for social rent) but also a ‘better than ever’ result which included 190 new completions in Edinburgh during 2021/22, none of which was for social rent.
I, therefore, applaud a recent decision by the Board of a Scottish RSL to make it crystal clear in its press releases whether new developments will be ‘affordable’ (ie usually MMR) or for social rent.
Honesty with statistics is essential, especially when we’re faced with ideologically-based policy-making like the Scottish Government’s edict this week about ‘freezes’ on rents and evictions.
As many of your correspondents said on Wednesday, this is NOT the answer.
It will lead to increased homelessness because private landlords will desert the sector and RSLs won’t get private funding or be able to meet the increased costs of retrofit, maintenance, repairs, etc. required to meet environmental and quality standards.
Ditto the councils. Will Council Tax payers be expected to meet the resultant income shortfall?
The most efficient and effective way to ‘control’ not only rent levels but also other housing-related costs is for governments to invest sufficiently in new social housing supply and essential upgrades so that rents are truly ‘affordable’.