Comment: We must work harder to solve housing crisis

HAVING effective regulation and working with private landlords can help solve the nation's housing crisis, says John Blackwood

Saturday, 7th May 2016, 12:34 pm
Updated Saturday, 7th May 2016, 1:47 pm
MSPs could also help the overwhelming number of responsible private landlords in Scotland by reviewing the regulation of the sector. Picture: TSPL

During the campaign, all parties rightly put solving Scotland’s housing crisis at the top of their agenda. Whilst the length of this parliamentary term provides an opportunity to achieve this, it is essential that all of our weapons are brought to bear, including recognising the role that private landlords can play.

SAL represents the growing number of landlords with a small portfolio who are, in essence, small businesses. They operate on very small margins whilst trying to deliver high-quality rented homes to those who want them. All of them support local supply chains by hiring builders, electricians, plumbers or the other trades required to maintain and improve their properties.

They are also willing and able to increase housing supply, whilst being socially responsible. To mobilise this group, the government only needs to make very small policy moves to signal to landlords that they have their support.

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For example, private landlords already work to bring derelict housing back into use and provide it at low-rent levels to reduce pressure on social housing. If this investment could be encouraged across the country, thousands of homes could be brought back into use where they are needed, guaranteeing the landlord an income and giving the council access to high-quality accommodation.

MSPs could also help the overwhelming number of responsible private landlords in Scotland by reviewing the regulation of the sector. Landlords are in favour of proportionate regulation, particularly in areas such as electrical safety or energy efficiency which also protect their property, provided it is enforced. Currently, landlords who comply with regulations can find themselves undercut by rogue players who almost never face any penalties.

Were the government to encourage more criminal prosecutions against bad landlords whilst working with us to implement effective regulations, they could improve housing conditions and raise the standards for all private rented accommodation.

Mutually beneficial investment and effective regulation are just two of the issues where I hope the new parliament will seek to engage landlords over the next five years. Our message to MSPs is simple. Work with us to achieve a well-functioning private rented sector and together we can help solve the housing crisis.

• John Blackwood is chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords