Edinburgh council house rents likely to be frozen for third year in a row

Council rents in Edinburgh look set to be frozen for a third year running after councillors agreed to reconsider a planned consultation on a possible rise.

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There had been warnings that tenants could face an increase of between 2.5 per cent and four per cent after a two-year standstill. But Labour’s housing convener Jane Meagher won cross-party support for the rethink.

Caroline Cawley, a council tenant in a high-rise block in Muirhouse, told the full council that with the cost of living crisis, the increased use of foodbanks and fuel poverty, people could not afford a rent rise.

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Speaking on behalf of campaign group Living Rent, she said council rents in the Capital were already the highest in Scotland.

Ms Cawley said: “People are already struggling and having to depend on charity just to eat and heat their homes. It isn’t fair on the tenants of this city that they have to pay more just in order to be able to stay in a home.”

And she said the city’s housing stock was in “a really poor state”. She said houses were “damp, cold, full of black mould”.

"My neighbour has been told she has to wait a year for a new front door – her door whistles when it gets windy because it fits so poorly. How can the council justify increasing the rent when it isn’t maintaining the homes it has?

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Council rents in Edinburgh are likely to be frozen for a third year running. Photo: Ian Georgeson.

"I know there is work being done to improve repairs bu it isn’t yet being felt on the ground.”

She said insulation work was going on for high-rise flats, but it was not starting on her block until next year. “So I have another winter in a cold, damp, mouldy home with a poor heating system and no insulation. I can’t afford to pay my electric bills let alone an increase in rent.”

Councillor Meagher said many households had already reached breaking point and one in three people were finding bills unaffordable. She said: “In this context a rent rise, however modest, would undoubtedly be an unbearable burden for many of our tenants.”

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She welcomed the Scottish Government rent freeze until at least 2023, but said it was “in a sense meaningless for local authorities because we set our rents on an annual basis”. But she said: “It does acknowledge that a rent freeze is a logical and a humane contribution to the mitigation of the cost of living crisis.”

Her motion also called for the council to write to the Scottish Government urging that the rent freeze across private and social-rented homes should be maintained until rent controls were in place.

SNP councillor Kate Campbell backed the move towards a rent freeze, while warning the council must not jeopardise the council house building programme and must ensure the investment in energy efficiency measures and the repairs service continued.

She said: “We have to assume the administration have worked out the financial situation and they believe these three very important priorities can be protected.”

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Cllr Campbell said the situation for people trying to rent in the private sector was “utterly horrendous”. She said: “Rents in Edinburgh are around 20 per cent above the Scottish average.

"It is unaffordable for too many people who live in our city. We will work with anyone to make sure we get rent controls in Edinburgh as soon as possible.”

Tory councillor Joanne Mowat said the Conservatives had supported the rent freeze for the past two years and supported the proposal to consider extending it. But she said they had concerns about rent controls.

Councillor Mowat said there was a need for more housing in all tenures to reduce the pressure in the market.

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