Voters will take their metaphorical cue from Mike Tyson - John McLellan

​As heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and rent controls were supposed to be the big plan to tackle the high cost of housing for people on low incomes.
As heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouthAs heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth
As heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth

Despite repeated warnings they don’t work, a temporary three per cent cap for existing tenants was introduced by the Scottish Government last September, driven by Green Party co-leader and Tenants’ Rights minister Patrick Harvie, and will continue to March next year.

But in a consultation document issued last month, the commitment to long-term rent controls was reaffirmed, so it’s likely that while Mr Harvie remains in post so too will some form of rent cap.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The dogs in the street know shortages produce higher prices and housing is no different, so the only way to limit costs sustainably is to accelerate house building. Artificially manipulating prices only stores up trouble and one of the first signs of a market reaction was the replacement of a build-to-rent scheme for 90 homes at New Waverley North with student flats.

Now comes the announcement that Harbour Homes, formerly the Port of Leith Housing Association, has abandoned new projects because they are no longer financially viable.

In an email to staff, chief executive Heather Kiteley blamed rising costs and procurement problems, but added that, “restrictions on our ability to increase rental income in line with inflation have made it impossible for future developments to demonstrate financial viability”.

The only way for any organisation to meet rising costs is to grow sales, increase prices or reduce expenditure, and as Harbour cannot rely on either new sales or rental revenue matching inflation, its only option is to cut costs. Borrowing more at a time when finance costs are high would be a fast track to bankruptcy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So, the six-strong development team is now at risk of redundancy, and a four-day week is an option, which will not only mean staff earning less but the maintenance of the 3,000 homes it rents will inevitably suffer.

Housing associations predicted as much when the cap was introduced and extended, particularly the impact on mid-market rents for those on modest incomes who do not qualify for social rents, and no doubt rent cap fans will dismiss growing concerns as the mewling of vested interests.

But there is a theme running through any Scottish Government policy connected with the Green Party, be it the drinks container deposit return scheme now heading for landfill, or the insane plan to force homeowners to rip out their gas boilers ─ the inability to see or accept practical consequences.

Having extoled the virtues of the Bute House agreement which put the Greens in government, it might be hard for First Minister Humza Yousaf to end the association with these reality deniers, but then he didn’t find it so hard to rip up the deal he signed with councils only three months ago by announcing a Council Tax freeze without any prior consultation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Labour Party is resurgent because it rejected the dogma-driven extremism of the Corbyn era and having given her hard-left soulmates the taste of power, ex-First Minster Nicola Sturgeon quit before facing the consequences.

And unless Mr Yousaf wakes up to the danger Green obsessions pose, voters will take their metaphorical cue from Mike Tyson.