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Tenants ‘can’t afford to wait any longer’ for rent freeze

Patrick Harvie.
Patrick Harvie.

Struggling renters are being offered “little more than warm words” as they campaign for help in a cost of living crisis.

Dundee-based MSP Mercedes Villalba hit out after calling for Nicola Sturgeon to impose a rent freeze.

She receive a response from Tenants’ Rights Minister Patrick Harvie on Tuesday but said his comments would “make little difference” if he’s not prepared to immediately intervene.

The SNP-Green government at Holyrood is consulting on legislation which would introduce a form of rent controls before the end of the current parliamentary term.

Ms Villalba argues tenants “cannot afford to wait for three or more years”.

‘Thick dread’ over rising rent

We reported previously that renters in Dundee have been left in “thick dread” over the cost of living crisis and fear they could be plunged into poverty if rents rise further.

Official figures show average costs for a two-bedroom rental property in the city have soared by more than 20% in the past decade.

The average rent in Dundee and Angus for 2021 was £601 per month, compared to the Scotland average of £693.

Average rent in Fife was £616, while Perth and Kinross was £590.

‘Ministers must do the work’

Mr Harvie – a Green MSP in the coalition government – argued that individual social landlords are already legally required to “strike the best balance between rent levels and meeting the housing needs of local communities”.

He said the Scottish Government is “committed to introducing rent controls to help private renters”.

Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party.
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party.

But he told Ms Villalba that ministers “must do the detailed work” first to ensure an effective and robust system which “stands the test of time”.

Mr Harvie said Scotland is doing more on rent controls than any part of the UK has for more than 30 years.

Scant comfort for renters

Ms Villalba described his response as “little more than warm words”.

She said it offers “scant comfort” for renters hit by spiralling rent rises they cannot afford.

Mercedes Villalba.

She added: “While I appreciate that Patrick Harvie says he agrees with my concerns about unaffordable rents causing additional hardship for already poverty-stricken families, his remarks make little difference unless the SNP and Greens are prepared to intervene to freeze rents, until the system of rental controls that Patrick Harvie’s government promised is introduced.

“There must be no excuses for failing to act on this, against a backdrop of the worst cost of living crisis in decades.”

What do rent control opponents say?

Critics of rent controls warn a lack of pricing flexibility can lead to a shortage of available properties for new tenants in the long-term.

Since renters are offered a better deal, it is argued they are less incentivised to move elsewhere, which could result in a shortage of available homes.

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