First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to ensure that whatever legal mechanism is used to freeze all rents until 31/3/23, it is capable of being discontinued for the social housing sector after that date.
On 6 September, the First Minister announced a rent freeze and evictions moratorium for all rented housing until at least 31 March 2023. The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) has written to Nicola Sturgeon amid fears that the emergency legislation could include a legal mechanism that might effectively commit Ministers to longer-term rent controls on the social sector.
GWSF’s letter says its member associations are not significantly affected by a rent freeze until 31 March 2023, but that any extension affecting the social housing sector thereafter would be completely unacceptable.
It says that social landlords have a long track record of taking a moderate and responsible approach to rent increases in consultation with tenants. It quotes the Scottish Housing Regulator’s September 2022 report, which found that even though inflation in April 2022 was 9%, average social sector rent increases were just under 3%, and that this was on the back of below-inflation increases or rent freezes during the pandemic.
The letter goes on to argue that rents must always balance affordability with the need for high-quality services and ongoing investment. It says that freezing rents, or capping increases at very low levels, for just one year would remove millions of pounds from a housing association’s 30-year investment plans, and across the sector could amount to over £600 million being lost.
GWSF Director David Bookbinder said: “GWSF fully recognises the Scottish Government’s desire to protect people as much as possible during the cost-of-living crisis. But any imposition of rent controls on our sector from 1 April would seriously undermine social landlords’ investment in pursuit of Net Zero and the Scottish Government’s new homes target.
“In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be continuing to engage with officials, but right now it’s critical that there’s nothing in the emergency legislation which would irreversibly commit the Scottish Government to imposing some form of control over social sector rents after 31/3/23.”