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Calls for Scottish Rent Freeze to Include Students

Posted by Calum Martin in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed a rent freeze will be introduced in Scotland, which has sparked concerns from the Living Rent tenants union.

The First Minister set out a range of measures to help the public in response to the soaring cost of living.

As well as a ban on evictions during the winter, a rent freeze will be applied to both the private and social sectors through emergency legislation.

The First Minister announced: "In what is perhaps the most significant announcement of the day, I can confirm that we will take immediate action to protect tenants in the private and social rented sectors.

"I can confirm that we will shortly introduce emergency legislation to parliament. The purpose of the emergency law will be two-fold.

"Firstly, it will aim to give people security about the roof over their heads this winter, with a moratorium on evictions.

"Secondly, the legislation will include measures to deliver a rent freeze. The Scottish Government doesn't have the power to stop your energy bills from soaring, but we can and will take action to ensure that your rent does not rise.

"By definition, these are temporary measures, but they will provide much-needed security for many during what will be a difficult winter. We envisage that both measures will remain in place until at least the end of March 2023."

She added: "Crucially, I can confirm that we will time the emergency legislation to ensure - subject, of course, to the agreement of parliament - that the practical effect of this statement is that rents are frozen from today."

Meg Bishop, secretary for the Living Rent tenants union, commented: "The devil will be in the detail and it is important that this rent freeze applies across the board, from purpose-built student accommodation to social housing, from rent increases starting today to rent notifications issued two months ago."

"While we are hugely relieved by this, we also know that rents are already too high and have increased by over 60% in Scottish cities in the last 10 years. This rent freeze is a great emergency response and will need to stay in place until the Scottish Government brings in proper rent controls that push rents down.

"Make no mistake, this would not have been possible without years of organising by members of Living Rent, Scotland's tenants' union."

Olly Brown, from Living Rent, also stated the "rent freeze would be a really great step in the right direction,"

"It's only a temporary thing to try and protect tenants in the short-term before rent controls can be introduced to actually bring down rents because they're already unaffordable for so many people, including students.

"The rent freeze definitely has to include purpose-built student accommodation, you can't make any exclusions there because students are facing ridiculous costs and they need to be included in any rent freeze and rent controls."

He continued: "Earlier this year, there was the New Deal for Tenants consultation from the Scottish Government and Living Rent had a series of demands from the Scottish Government based on that,"

"Including rent controls, a points-based rent controls system which basically ties the quality of housing to the cost and helps to bring down rents.

"And that basically means that landlords prioritise the quality of their housing and students and all tenants aren't facing pretty horrific living conditions a lot of the time that don't get fixed and rents can actually be made affordable for everyone, including students."

Following the easing of Covid-19 measures, the demand for student accommodation has again risen, and Brown has warned that the freeze is needed to prevent the situation from worsening each year.

"Students are having a really tough time trying to find accommodation at the moment, we're seeing it among our members in Living Rent," he said.

"It's becoming really difficult for people to find any affordable housing and this is something that's affecting all tenants.

"Students are specifically facing it right now but rents have increased across Scotland by 10% in the past year, so it's something that is really impacting everyone among all the other rises in living costs that people are facing.

"So, that's ultimately why we need a rent freeze now before rent controls can be introduced because students are increasingly struggling to find anywhere to live, anywhere near the university.

"And so they need a rent freeze to prevent that situation from getting worse as it is each year."