Edinburgh housing chief calls for action on escalating rent costs

The average advertised monthly private rental price in Edinburgh is hundreds of pounds higher than the national average.
The average advertised monthly private rental price in Edinburgh is hundreds of pounds higher than the national average.
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The council’s housing chief will write to the Scottish Government for more clarity about introducing a rent pressure zone (RPZ) in the Capital after opponents hit out at the stalling policy.

RPZs allow a cap to be set on how much rents can increase for existing tenants in private accommodation each year. In order for councils to introduce a RPZ, they must provide evidence that rents are rising too much, are causing problems for tenants and that the authority is coming under pressure to provide housing.

In a report, council officers highlighted that “city centre rent prices are now starting to level off having hit an “affordability ceiling” with demand now spreading to neighbouring areas”.

The average advertised monthly private rental price in Edinburgh is currently £1,087 compared to a national average of £799. The next highest Scottish city is Glasgow with an average of £763.

Green councillors called on housing and economy convener Cllr Kate Campbell to write to local government, housing and planning minister Kevin Stewart to see if the process can be sped up – after officers revealed that gathering enough evidence to justify a RPZ being introduced could take between three and five years.

Green Cllr Melanie Main said: “We are looking at challenges with housing in Edinburgh now. Is there a 
willingness to address the problems that the city is facing now?

“Edinburgh has some of the highest private rents in Scotland. If we don’t take the lead with tackling these problems, we are excluding people on low incomes. It makes it very hard for those on low incomes to be able to live in the city.”

But Conservative Cllr Jim Campbell said there was a lack of evidence showing PRZs are effective.

He added: “We have had some concerns about the consequences of RPZs.

“I do think there’s a broad agreement that we need to build more houses. The most important tool is to build more affordable houses.”

But Cllr Main said building more homes would not tackle all the problems the Capital faces with its housing market.

She added: “Building 20,000 homes across ten years is not going to solve the problem – it’s not enough.

“We do need to take action as much as we can on all fronts and high rents are a problem. We need to make the best use of what we have.

“Three to five years is really too long for our tenants who are in crisis and experiencing high rental costs. Edinburgh should be and can take the lead with this.”

Cllr Kate Campbell was also quizzed by her coalition partner and housing vice convener, Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron, about putting pressure on the Scottish Government for action.

The convener agreed to write to the Scottish Government and pointed to other methods of easing pressures on the housing market including an ambition for a short term lets licensing regime.

She said: “Edinburgh is the most pressured housing market in Scotland. I agree that Edinburgh is a special case in terms of housing. I’m quite happy to write to Kevin Stewart. We have to make representations to our Scottish Government ministers and I’m more than happy to do that.

“We need lots of tools to tackle the problems with housing in Edinburgh. All of those different ways are going to address the situation with housing in Edinburgh.”