Welfare spends shows rent reform crucial

Reforming the private rental market is absolutely crucial, said Scottish Labour, after figures showed over £430 million in housing benefit is paid in the private rented sector in Scotland.

Nearly 100,000 privately rented households in Scotland are in receipt of housing benefit, with the latest figures showing the benefit bill growing by more than £20 million. 

UK Labour leader Ed Miliband recently announced proposals to cap rent increases, and the Scottish Parliament have the chance to lead on this now, with Scottish Labour proposing amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Bill currently going through Holyrood.

The amendments would oblige Scottish Ministers to bring forward regulations to limit rent reviews to once a year, and cap increases to stop private renters being ripped off by unfair rises.

SNP and Conservative MSPs voted against the amendments at the Stage 2 Reading of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, but Kelly will resubmit the amendments ahead of the third and final reading.

Labour Infrastructure Spokesperson James Kelly MSP said “These figures are shocking – one in five recipients of housing benefit is privately renting, and the benefit bill is growing by tens of millions of pounds.  We have to take action to make sure that tenants are not at the mercy of unfair rent rises.

“These figures underline the Scottish Government’s total failure to take action on Scotland’s social housing crisis. We face a huge shortfall in housing as our population is increasing and waiting lists for Council and Housing Association properties run into decades.

“By capping rent increases we ensure that housing benefit is being used to support the people who need it rather than line the pockets of landlords.

“Our welfare spend should be serving our most vulnerable, not boosting profit margins.

“We can and should take action on this now. I will seek to amend the Housing Bill at its third and final reading to offer protection to over 300,000 private renters in Scotland, almost half of which are families with children.

“Tenants in the private rented sector are choosing between the weekly shop and heating their home because of rent bills.

“I hope the Housing Minister Margaret Burgess understands the need for action here, and joins me in delivering a fair deal for families across Scotland. She cannot afford to continue to ignore the case for reforming the rental market.”

30 May 2014