Fairer Scotland

A Fairer and more prosperous place *to live*

September 30, 2015 by 1 Comment | Category Housing

Vonnie Sandlan (President of the National Union of Students, Scotland)

Vonnie Sandlan (President of the National Union of Students, Scotland)

Vonnie Sandlan (President of the National Union of Students, Scotland)

Let us start from a basic position – one we’d hope everyone could agree on – access to safe, affordable, and quality housing is a basic human right.

This being the case, then it’s clear we could do much more to ensure a fairer Scotland.

As the most recent figures show, there has been an ever growing inversion between the numbers of people living in their own homes and those who are reliant on the private rented sector.

And no one group is feeling that pressure more than young people.

Despite that, we know that for far too many people, the experience of renting privately is far from as affordable or as secure as it should be.

Progress and challenges
We’ve seen really encouraging signs of progress in recent years – from greater regulation of landlords, to the introduction of tenancy deposit protection schemes – but we should always push ourselves to go further.

Too many students still have to deal with astronomical rents and poor living conditions. Not that these concerns affect only students.

The truth is, for thousands of people across Scotland, finding a place to stay can be extremely difficult. The bottom line is this – there is a real need for safer, good quality, affordable housing in Scotland.

The fight for security of tenure
For many students, finding affordable, quality accommodation for the duration of their course can be difficult and stressful – particularly when there are severe limits on the amount of housing available for communities, let alone the students within them.

Even more worryingly, as first time renters in a new city, students may be among those most at risk from the minority of rogue landlords that still exist in many of our communities.

Most recently, the NUS Scotland has been making the argument for an increased security of tenure. This places the power of ending a contract back to the hands of the tenant.

After all, consider the:

  1. students who want to stay in an area they’ve made home
  2. families with children in local schools
  3. vulnerable people who have built up close support networks.

These groups, and many more, deserve security and peace of mind – no one should be subjected to the whims of a market.

It’s such a simple idea, and one that (if you really think about it) you might think was already the norm. Not so.

Pressing the need for this security would start to address the fact that many more people need the private rented sector – no longer able to afford outright ownership.

It seems entirely right that such parties therefore also deserve security of tenure to sit alongside that need.

Rocketing rents
At the same time, security is meaningless if a tenant can’t afford to take on a property in the first place.

Yes, private landlords and letting agencies are not charities, but neither should we allow our communities to become the preserve only of those who can afford ever inflated rents.

To do so would be akin to burying our heads in the sand, removing people struggling with rent from our communities and our minds eye.

Currently, private renters in the UK spend almost 40% of their income on rent in comparison to the European average of 28%. Additionally, figures at the end of 2014 showed that rent prices are rising faster in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK.

Simultaneously, more and more people are finding the goal of home ownership out of their reach – whilst private renting continues to become a commodity, to be traded to the highest bidder.

We have been working with the Living Rent Campaign to make the case for rent controls that will see an end to spiralling rental costs. Especially so within the big cities, where we’ve seen significant rises in rental prices.

These increased rents simply do not reflect a similar increase in average wage – nor do they chime with any increase of maintenance loans and grants available for full time students.

Level the field
We shouldn’t be timid when it comes to controlling the costs of rent. There’s a huge variety of successful examples, from across Europe and beyond, that show how rents can be managed. We need to begin to protect our communities from spiralling costs.

Because for a truly fairer Scotland we need a level playing field.

We need a country where access to housing is a right, not a luxury.


More information
Website, National Union of Students Scotland
NUS Scotland has been campaigning for fairer housing and better rights for student tenants. NUS Scotland also works with the Living Rent Campaign for rent controls to be introduced.

Website, Living Rent Campaign
The Living Rent Campaign is a coalition of groups and individuals determined to improve the lot of private renters within Scotland. Activities so far have included collecting consultation responses to the Governments private rented sector reform consultation and direct lobbying of the Scottish parliament.


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Comments

  • alastaircameroonie says:

    Great post, Vonnie, chimes well with our views at Scottish Churches Housing Action. Common cause between students, homeless people, and others pushed to the edges of our dysfunctional housing system!

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