Scottish Government to publish new 20-year rented sector housing strategy
A new strategy for Scotland’s rented sector will improve accessibility, affordability and standards, as part of a new 20-year route map for housing to be published next week by the Scottish Government.
The Rented Sector strategy will be a key element of Housing to 2040 - Scotland’s first long-term housing plan which will set the path for how homes and communities should look and feel in 2040. It will specifically address private and social rent and agricultural tenancies, to ensure an affordable, quality sector offering choice to meet people’s needs.
Tenants will be closely involved in the development of the strategy with a national network of social rented tenants developed alongside a Tenant Participation Panel.
Housing to 2040 will also include a proposal for a new Housing Bill, to be introduced early in the next parliament, in order to take forward further reforms in the rented sector and increase the rights of tenants.
Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s virtual Scotland’s Housing Festival 2021, housing minister Kevin Stewart, said: “Housing to 2040 sets out Scotland’s approach to improving the nation’s housing over the next two decades, and making improvements in the rented sector is a vital part of that.
“It will set out our plans to develop a new Rented Sector strategy that will improve accessibility, affordability and standards across the whole rented sector, so we can increase affordability and quality of choice when finding a home.
“In the private rented sector, we need to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and ensure homes are affordable now and in the long term. Local authorities need to be able to tackle unreasonably high rents, so we will also reshape the existing Rent Pressure Zone legislation to make it an effective tool for them to use.
“Subject to the outcome of the election, we will make sure this is in law by bringing forward a new Housing Bill early in the next parliament, which will also strengthen the rights of tenants with greater protections from unreasonable rent increases and unfair evictions.”
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said a better deal for renters is essential to ending the housing crisis.
CAS social justice spokesperson, Nina Ballantyne, said: “A better deal for renters is essential to end the housing crisis.
“While we await further details on the new Rented Sector strategy, we’re pleased that a new strategy to improve affordability, standards and accessibility across all kinds of rented housing will be published next week. We’re also pleased to see a commitment to engage closely with tenants in the development of the strategy.
“These were all areas we identified as needing action in our response to the initial Housing to 2040 consultation.
“We look forward to seeing the detail of the plan but are encouraged to see the Scottish Government recognising our calls to improve the private rented sector in particular, especially as this will be a critical part of the recovery from the pandemic.”
Living Rent has also welcomed the announcement but the tenants’ union has cautioned that the measures in the Bill must reflect the seriousness of the housing crisis in the country.
Recent figures have shown that private rents in parts of Scotland have increased by more than 40% over the last decade, and that average rents have even continued to increase over the course of the pandemic whilst average wages have fallen in real terms.
The union also highlighted the introduction of so-called ‘Rent Pressure Zones’ in 2016, an initiative that no local authority has yet been able to successfully use.
Gordon Maloney, a spokesperson for Living Rent, warned that Scotland cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
He said: “Tenants across Scotland, in both the private and social rented sector, have faced five years of being driven further and further into poverty, and we cannot afford another five years of timidity and false promises. In order to tackle the crisis tenants face, we need a bold, ambitious plan that goes far enough to genuinely make a difference.
“That means we can’t simply tweak around the edges of failed policies like Rent Pressure Zones. We need proper, strong rent controls that bring rents down and force landlords to improve quality. Tenants will continue to hold the government to account on this to ensure that they deliver the changes we need to ensure everyone in the country has a safe, secure, and affordable place to call home.”