Tackling high rents in Edinburgh

Leith Walk’s Green councillor, Susan Rae, made her first speech in the council today, arguing that the council should be at the head of the line to use forthcoming powers to declare a Rent Pressure Zone which would limit rent rises.  This is what she said.   

Lord Provost, this country and our city is facing a crisis in housing.  The great right-to-buy bonanza combined with the boom in the buy-to-let market has, amongst other factors, led to a severe depletion in housing stock.  This has left many of our citizens dependent on private landlords and struggling to achieve a fundamental basic human right:  that of having a roof over their head.

We have seen the results of this in the deputations made by amazing young women, priced out of their private rented homes, who spoke so eloquently to us today.

Our city has the largest private rented sector in Scotland and it’s the most expensive private rented sector in Scotland.  And this is undoubtedly a contributing factor to our current housing crisis.  Edinburgh needs action on private rents which is why I am proud to propose this, my first motion in Council.

A report to the Health, Social Care and Housing Committee last Autumn showed that the average private rent in Edinburgh was just under £1,000 per month. A rise of 31% in only 6 years.

31% in 6 years at a time when inflation as measured by the consumer price index was 12.6% over the same period. Private rents in the city have risen almost twice as fast in Edinburgh as they have for Scotland as a whole.

Meanwhile, industry analysts fill business pages with speculation of even greater returns in the five years ahead.

Many of our young people and families have been completely priced out of the housing market by private landlords.

A 31% rise in income at a time when many of us have seen our incomes flatline, freeze or fall?  Now add to that the capital gain from properly values rising after the crash of 2008.

If you are a landlord in Edinburgh today then what a time to be alive!

It’s a very different story if you are a tenant. To be a tenant in Edinburgh is to face a huge rise in costs and no rise in quality; to know that the bulk of your income will line a landlord’s pocket leaving you with no hope of saving for that vital deposit; to know that losing your livelihood can mean losing your home.  To feel that unless your income is in a higher bracket, such is the barrier to owning or even renting your own home, then this city does not want you to make it your permanent home.

That is why Edinburgh needs to be at the front of the queue in taking action on private rents.