The price of high rents

Edinburgh’s tenants need a break says Susan Rae.

Our city has more private tenants than anywhere else in Scotland. 63,000, or one in 4 households in the capital, are renting from a private landlord: often on short-term leases offering limited security. Edinburgh also has the most expensive rents in Scotland. Recent Scottish Government statistics showed that the average two bedroom rent in Lothian was £888 a month, more than double the rate of inflation over the same time (16%), and an astonishing rise of 34% since 2010.

That is for Lothian as a whole. Edinburgh itself is steeper still. According to Citylets average 2 bedroom rents within the city are now £967 a month, a whopping 28% rise in only 5 years.

So wherever you look, rents in Edinburgh are very expensive, rising way ahead of inflation and even further ahead of incomes.

This is why I secured council support back in June for the council to be first in the queue to use new powers to declare the city a Rent Pressure Zone, powers which went live at the end of last week (1 December). This would limit rent rises to 1% above inflation and would go hand in hand with the new more secure private tenancies which also kicked in at the end of last week. In October, Green councillors published research which showed that introducing a Rent Pressure Zone would have a positive impact but it needs to be city-wide.

And that is just a start. Rent Pressure Zones are a very modest measure. Rent costs are too high because house prices and land values are too high. Locking up wealth in bricks and mortar is deeply damaging to the city economy. So radical changes are also needed to planning, land release, taxation and the design of housing subsidy to bring the cost of our housing, our homes – whether to rent or own – back to what people can afford.

A home is the most basic of needs. We need to ensure that need is met.