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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, International Women’s Day 2023, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Save Loch Lomond


Contents


Parliamentary Bureau Motion

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item of business is consideration of Parliamentary Bureau motion S6M-08153, on approval of a Scottish statutory instrument. I call George Adam, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022 (Amendment of Expiry Dates and Rent Cap Modification) Regulations 2023 [draft] be approved.—[George Adam]

17:24  

Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Before my comments, I remind members of my entry in the register of interests, which shows that I own rental properties in Moray.

Six months ago, the Government rushed through legislation, without consultation, to freeze rents and continue an eviction ban across Scotland. Although the policy appeared to be well intentioned, the Scottish Conservatives repeatedly warned the minister that it would have damaging consequences for the housing sector. Those warnings fell on deaf ears. The minister appeared to know better, but clearly he did not.

Since the legislation was passed, plans to build 11,000 new affordable homes in Glasgow have been paused—£1 billion-worth of investment has been halted. House builders and landlords have lost confidence in the Government, and to prove it the Scottish Association of Landlords has launched a judicial review of the emergency legislation. If the Scottish Government loses the case, it could be liable for compensating all who are affected. I am not sure whether the minister has even considered that.

However, the minister now wants Parliament to extend the provisions of the legislation for six months, which will allow a 3 per cent rent increase in the private sector and an unregulated rise in the social sector. The big question for most people is about how the Government came up with the figure of 3 per cent. Was it based on evidence, or was the figure plucked from thin air? I believe that the minister needs to justify it by sharing his workings, because to me it looks no better than a guesstimate.

I believe that a rent cap will impede many landlords from having the capital to make what are increasingly expensive updates to their properties, many of which are mandated by legislation. In the long term, it does not make sense to renovate a private rental property when the landlord will only ever make the basic minimum or have to remove it from the rental market. Scotland’s rental sector cannot be allowed to shrink.

The Government damages the private sector at its peril, I believe. The sector provides 340,000 homes, but that number is falling, and it will fall even further if the Government continues to penalise landlords. I remind Parliament that I believe that we need every single one of those houses. A drop in the supply of homes will, after all, hurt tenants most.

I believe that the SSI will penalise private rental landlords and that, in the long term, it will hurt tenants. I call on members to oppose the SSI; it is based on a guesstimate.

Will the member give way?

I am in my last minute, but I will give way if I have time.

The member should conclude.

Edward Mountain

I am sorry—I would have taken Mr Mason’s intervention if I had had time.

The SSI is bad for landlords and bad for tenants, and it is contributing to the collapse in the number of existing rental properties and preventing new ones from being built. Frankly, I believe that it is bad news for us all.

17:27  

The Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights (Patrick Harvie)

As the whole Parliament is well aware, we introduced the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022 to do three things: to protect tenants through stabilising their housing costs by freezing rents; to reduce the impact of eviction and homelessness through introduction of a moratorium on enforcement of evictions; and to avoid evictions from the rented sector by landlords wanting to raise rents between tenancies during the temporary measures, and reduce unlawful evictions.

Since then, the 2022 act has provided important additional protection for tenants across the rented sector, as we continue to live through challenging and uncertain economic times. Our updated data and economic analysis—which we published at the start of this year—shows that the unprecedented economic position has not yet fundamentally changed, and that many households in the private rented sector, in particular, continue to struggle.

It is for that reason that the regulations that are before the Parliament today seek to extend the rent cap measures for the private rented sector, and the eviction moratorium provisions, across all rented sectors that are covered by the 2022 act, and to extend other important provisions in the act for a further six-month period to 30 September.

Mark Griffin (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I remind Parliament of my interest as the owner of a private rented property in North Lanarkshire. We agree that it is right to extend the provisions, given the crisis in household finances, but how many times will we extend them in a piecemeal fashion? Would not it be better to bring forward the proposed housing bill and to have a permanent state of rent controls in this country instead of relying on continued extension of the provisions?

Patrick Harvie

As Mark Griffin knows, the necessity and proportionality of the emergency measures needs to be continually reassessed in the light of events. That is why the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill, which was supported by the Labour Party, was structured as it was. However, we have committed to introducing the new housing bill as soon as possible after the summer recess this year.

Will the minister take an intervention?

Patrick Harvie

I am afraid that I need to move on.

We recognise the on-going impacts of the cost crisis, which may also be impacting on some private landlords. That is why the regulations propose that the rent cap be varied to allow for within-tenancy rent increases of up to 3 per cent.

Will the minister take an intervention on that point?

I will, if I can have some extra time.

I can give you a little time back, but you have only half a minute of your time left.

Patrick Harvie

In that case, I need to move on quickly.

That approach gives a measure of parity in monetary terms, in line with the voluntary rent-setting agreement that is in place with social sector landlords, while continuing to protect tenants from unaffordable rent increases.

There is also a safeguard in place for landlords who could alternatively opt to apply to rent service Scotland for a rent increase of up to 6 per cent, if they have had an increase in their defined prescribed property costs within a specified period.

I draw to Mr Mountain’s attention that it is important to recognise that, as well as being time limited and kept under review, the emergency legislation does not affect initial rent setting; it affects only in-tenancy rent increases.

Please conclude, minister.

Patrick Harvie

In summary, for many years, Scotland has led the way on housing issues, including through the abolition of the right to buy, the provision of security of tenure for tenants and the provision of new social housing. Through the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022, it continues to show such leadership. I am proud of that work—

Thank you, minister. You must conclude.

—and I ask Parliament to approve the necessary and important measures that are before it today.

The question on the motion will be put at decision time.