Rent controls should be introduced in Scotland because “timid actions” to protect tenants are not working, the Scottish Greens have said.
The party has echoed a call from the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly that recommended the introduction of a cap on rent increases.
Co-leader Patrick Harvie argued “rents have rapidly outstripped inflation” and called for urgent measures to support renters.
He criticised the Scottish Government’s “useless” and unused rent pressure zone policy and demanded more be done both during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government’s housing minister appeared to acknowledge problems with the policy that was introduced in 2016, allowing councils to ask for limited powers to restrict rent rises.
No local authority has introduced a rent pressure zone to date.
Mr Harvie said: “The Scottish Government has failed to adequately protect tenants as rents have rapidly outstripped inflation over the last decade.
“Throughout the pandemic, Greens have pushed ministers to protect renters and we have made substantial progress; securing the introduction and then extension of a winter eviction ban as well as a tenant hardship fund.
“While it’s essential that emergency measures are in place, we must also look at how tenants can be supported longer term too.
“Scotland is decades behind many of our European neighbours when it comes to tenants’ rights.
“Protections like winter evictions bans and rent controls are commonplace across the continent.”
Referencing the Citizens’ Assembly’s support for a rent cap, Mr Harvie urged the Government to give councils the power to implement such a policy.
In the assembly’s Vision for Scotland published earlier this week, 98 of the 102 members who voted backed the rent caps recommendation which also proposed giving young people entitlements to affordable social housing, while making buying property “more accessible” for all Scots.
Mr Harvie added: “It’s great that the Citizens’ Assembly has included a call for rent controls in its report.
“There is clear recognition from the group of the urgent need for government to address the challenges faced by tenants, including the lack of affordable social housing available to young people.
“The timid action previously introduced by the Scottish Government, in the shape of rent pressure zones, has proven to be useless.
“Not one council has been able to implement a rent pressure zone due to the burdensome bureaucracy involved.
“It’s time that the Scottish Government took the positive action that is so obviously necessary and empowered local government to introduce rent controls.”
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “I share concerns around rent affordability, particularly as the long-term impacts of the pandemic are felt, which is why we are providing financial support and have strengthened safeguards for private tenants through this crisis.
“I have written to all private rental tenants in Scotland informing them of the support available to them and their rights, including the right to challenge unfair rent increases.
“We have already introduced a range of significant reforms through our 2016 Private Housing Act to improve the sector.
“This includes providing private renters with a range of new rights and greater security, stability and predictability in their rents – as well as introducing measures to help tackle increasing rents, such as rent pressure zones.
“We realise the evidencing need for a rent pressure zone is a considered process and that is why we are currently considering what changes we need to make to better support an application being brought forward by a local authority”.