Maggie Chapman is a co-convener of the Scottish Green Party. She is calling for a fairer housing system in the country in the wake of the Scottish Government’s announcement to legislate rent controls.
Chapman is “delighted” that Scotland will soon introduce rent controls. However, she urges that they must be “real and meaningful, and tackle the serious housing problem we face.”
Chapman explains her viewpoint: “Better housing is a fundamental part of a better society; it is hard to see how we can improve people’s health, better educate our children and have a fairer and more equal economy if we fail to offer people decent homes.”
Housing in Scotland has followed the general pattern of the UK, with many homes now being rented out by private landlords.
Wealthy property investors are experiencing “profits rising year-on-year,” says Chapman. For those renting from them, the costs of letting eats up “greater and greater amounts of people’s disposable income”.
Green Party Co-Convener Calls for Fairer Housing in Scotland
The young and those on low incomes are being priced out of homeownership by spiralling prices. Renting in the private rental sector has become “the norm”. But Chapman notes, “all too often, the property for rent is cramped, expensive and low-quality”.
Scotland is now facing a housing crisis. Chapman observes that in cities such as Aberdeen, rents have surged, pricing all but the very wealthy out of the city and causing “social segregation”.
The HomeLet index shows that rents around the UK have increased by 12% in the last year. Chapman argues: “When it is cheaper than ever to borrow money, there is no excuse for this.”
She continues: “In a society where many people under the age of 35 find themselves priced out of buying a home, we risk creating a cohort of people permanently locked into high-cost housing.”
But those affected have reacted, with many running campaigns. The Living Rent movement has forced the issue up the agenda and is hoping for a serious response from the Scottish Government.
Although Chapman believes in the power of rent controls, she hopes that they are “effective”.
“That’s why I put forward a motion to the Scottish Green Party conference next month, calling for the introduction of a points-based system of rent controls,” she explains. “This would mean that rents are set at an affordable level, based on the quality, size, location and facilities in the property for rent.”
She adds: “I want increases to be limited so they don’t push tenants into poverty.”
Chapman is also addressing evictions. At present, there is a no fault ground for eviction, meaning that landlords can remove their tenants whatever their circumstances.
She says: “I want all evictions to be discretionary, so landlords must give grounds for removing someone from his or her home.”
Additionally, Chapman would like to see the regulation of letting agents.
She continues: “This boom sector mediates the market, producing a situation where they are demanding rent increases that not even the landlords want.
“In one case, I was approached by tenants whose letting agent was terminating their lease because they’d lived in the property for two years, and the agent was worried they would start treating it as a home. It turned out that the landlord didn’t want them removed. It was a ruse to put the rent up.”
Chapman concludes: “Ultimately, housing is the cornerstone of a good society. While Thatcherites may delight in the rich profiting from an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the poor, we cannot allow neo-liberal dogma to condemn the young and the poor to expensive, low-quality housing.
“We need rent controls, an end to unfair evictions, and a radical overhaul of the housing system. This decision is just the start.”1