Patrick Harvie: 'Rent freeze can be introduced responsibly'

The legislation is being fast-tracked through the Scottish Parliament.

Patrick Harvie: ‘Rent freeze can be introduced responsibly’ STV News

Emergency legislation to freeze rents and ban evictions until next year can be introduced in a “balanced” way that reflects the interests of both landlords and tenants, MSPs have heard.

It comes after the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Scotland Bill was introduced at the Scottish Parliament on Monday.

If approved at Holyrood, the legislation would see landlords temporarily restricted from increasing the amount of rent they can charge on residential tenancies, with the change also applying to student accommodation.

Certain restrictions would also be placed on evictions from residential tenancies, with some exemptions for landlords including where they are experiencing financial hardship.

Under the proposals, most of the changes in the Bill would expire at the end of March 31, 2023.

However, ministers could decide to extend the measures beyond that point to September 30 next year, and then again until March 31, 2024.

The Bill is being fast-tracked through the Scottish Parliament, with the scrutiny process being carried out in a matter of days.

MSPs on Holyrood’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee hear evidence on the legislation on Tuesday morning.

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Representatives including from the Scottish Association of Landlords, Living Rent and Crisis all gave their views on the proposals.

Patrick Harvie, Scotland’s tenants’ rights minister was also quizzed on the plans.

A debate on the Bill will take place in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

Giving evidence to the committee, Harvie insisted that the changes can be “done properly”, while tackling the issue of the housing emergency.

“I’m confident that we are bringing forward a bill now which not only responds to an emergency situation in an appropriate way, but also in a balanced way that reflects the interests and circumstances of both landlords and tenants,” he said.

“This can be done properly, this can be done responsibly to make sure that we raise standards, ensure that there’s protection for tenants and tenants’ rights, at the same time as making sure that our housing systems have adequate supply and good quality.”

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, spoke out against the proposals set out under the Bill.

“We do not believe that this is proportionate because of course landlords are affected as well as tenants through this cost of living crisis that we’re living through at the moment,” he said.

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“It’s important that landlords work together in partnership with tenants to be able to overcome some of these issues.

“I think we likewise agree that landlords and tenants need to be supported in these difficult times.”

Caroline Crawley, a member of Living Rent, said that the situation is “truly unaffordable” for people.

“We absolutely believe that the legislation needs to go through,” she told MSPs.

“Everyone is in a crisis but tenants especially. Foodbank use has gone up, energy bills are spiralling and rents just keep increasing at insane rates.”

She added: “The current market value is completely unsustainable and in the last few years, between 2010 and 2021, there’s been a private rent increase in Glasgow of 30% and Lothians has gone up by 42%.

“And in the last year since the pandemic, it’s increased by 12% in Dundee, 14% in Edinburgh and 16% in Glasgow.

“It’s just truly unaffordable for people who are working, never mind people who are on benefits.”