Firstly let’s put the ridiculous idea of rent holidays to bed once and for all. Only possible if the Scottish Government covers the £48 million a week cost, which, amongst other things, would be tantamount to presenting a huge cheque to the UK Government for the benefit costs it would save.
The message to our tenants HAS to be that rent continues to be payable. For some tenants, including – as an example – older people on Housing Benefit, this shouldn’t be a problem. Let’s face it, those people have got other things to worry about at the moment.
We know that some tenants will genuinely struggle to pay their rent as their wages reduce or disappear. Wherever appropriate, social landlords will work with them to claim Universal Credit, for all its faults. And over time, the detail of who will be helped by the UK Government’s ‘80% of wages’ assistance will become clearer.
Yes, it will be difficult and messy, and what’s certain is that every housing association and council housing department in Scotland will take a significant hit.
As things stand, the only way that hit can be absorbed, when the written-off losses are calculated, is by the tenants themselves in the rents they pay in future years. That’s why we’ve asked Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell for an in-principle commitment to explore a mechanism for compensating landlords for these losses.
The detail doesn’t matter right now. What’s important is the comfort and reassurance of knowing that it won’t be left to some of the poorest people in our communities to foot the bill for protecting tenants from the financial impact of this incredibly challenging crisis.