The new leader of the Labour party in Scotland says his party will introduce “stringent” rent controls if it gains power in the country – echoing a similar pledge by national party leader Jeremy Corbyn, made at the annual conference last autumn.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard says the proposed legislation will be called ‘The Mary Barbour’ to commemmorate the leader of rent strikes in Scotland some decades ago.
In the shorter term, he says he will introduce a private members’ bill in the Scottish Parliament to call on the current SNP administration to create a points-based system linked to average wages to determine rent levels and controls.
He also wants increased regulation on the private rental sector north of the border, that would extend to stricter enegy efficiency and health and safety areas, too.
In England, shadow housing minister John Healey has said in the past that his party would introduce “modern local solutions to a pressing problem for England’s 4.5m renting households.”
This would mean different maximum rent levels and growth caps in different cities, which would mean councils were “able to balance the needs of renters with encouraging new housing supply in a way that suits their local housing markets.”
In response to the latest Scottish call for controls, the National Landlords Authority’s head of policy, Chris Norris, says: “While we can all understand the impact that high rents can have, and sympathise with those households struggling to get by, calls for state intervention are rarely the solution.
“Rent controls of the style of the proposed ‘Mary Barbour Law’ fail to take into account the rising costs of providing and maintaining good quality rental accommodation.
“Intervening to establish arbitrary caps on the rent which landlords may charge will simply reduce investment and lead to the withdrawal of much needed stock from the market place.
“Although rents in certain parts of the country are undeniably higher, in recent years they have risen largely in line with inflation. Rather than focusing solely on the cost of accessing private housing, the NLA would recommend a wider debate taking into account the historically low increase in household income relative to other costs”.