Sarah Boyack: Struggle to find place to call home

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I’ve called for action for a fairer approach to private rents. It is clear that we need to take action to reform the private rental sector to make it to work for everyone, rather than simply acting as a cash cow for landlords.

This year we have witnessed a big rise in private-sector rents in Edinburgh – with an average increase of 8.8 per cent on last year’s prices. We have also seen house prices rise faster than in any other city across the UK. These trends indicate that more people will be effectively shut out of the property market and forced to rent in an increasing expensive private sector. As prices continue to rise, we will see people, who are already priced out of the housing market, also being priced out of the rental market.

Not only will this be bad for Edinburgh’s economy, but it will have a severe impact on people affected by these rises – many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet. Recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) suggests that the number of private rented households living in poverty has doubled in the last decade to 120,000.

What’s more, according to the JRF: “Private rents are forecast to rise by around 90 per cent in real terms between 2008 and 2040 – more than twice as fast as incomes. This would push up to 50 per cent of private renters into poverty by 2040.”

If this trend continues we will see tens of thousands of people being pushed into poverty.

Yet new figures show landlords are making more whilst more tenants struggle.

To do this we must create new laws to tackle the rising private-sector rents, but we also need to see a significant increase in the availability of affordable social housing in the city.

Scotland’s social housing stock has fallen by 17 per cent in the last decade, which has caused the proportion of households in the private rented sector to double – from eight per cent to 14 per cent. There are also long-term implications for our access to housing. A recent study conducted by Generation Rent found that if current trends continue, renters will start to outnumber homeowners in 104 UK Parliamentary seats across the UK by 2021.

The age at which people have been able to buy housing is steadily increasing with the pressure of having to save up for deposits.

That means young families facing big pressures trading off childcare and housing costs. We also need to see a more effective strategy to improve energy efficiency in our private rented so that people are not dragged into fuel poverty.

Alongside a fairer private rental market, it’s vital that we also invest in more affordable social housing, especially in Edinburgh. We’re seeing less new social housing units year-on-year in Scotland.

So we need a range of action to give people better housing choices. The SNP Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to rent reform. The 54,000 private renters in Edinburgh deserve better than that.

I have been a strong supporter of Shelter Scotland’s Make Renting Right campaign, and I would encourage anyone who cares about fairer rents to sign the call for action.

I hope that together we can make the Scottish Government pay attention to the need for affordable housing.

Sarah Boyack is a Labour MSP for Lothian