Call for points-based rent controls in Glasgow, as costs spiral

Talks on tackling rising rents in Glasgow – previously branded a “sham” by a union – have led to 16 recommendations including a points-based system of rent controls.

A tenant-led commission was set up after Glasgow City Council declared a ‘rents crisis’ in late 2020. Due to the cost of living crisis, the Scottish Government announced earlier this month that it is planning to ban evictions during winter and freeze rents until spring.

Rent controls, which should be developed with the government, could be based on standards to incentivise landlords to invest in their properties, it has been recommended.

Rent prices have risen quickly.

Other recommendations include:

  • Reforming local planning policy/guidance to prioritise affordable social housing development
  • More resources and staffing for a proactive approach to property inspections and enforcement action
  • Support to deal with illegal evictions
  • Help for tenants in unsuitable homes to meet their needs

Tenants’ union Living Rent, which took part in the commission but pulled out due to dissatisfaction, said some of the findings are “encouraging” but the commission’s work is “generally vague” and “not binding”.

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It has called on the council to “turn talk into action and introduce measures that support tenants now”. The council said the findings will inform Glasgow’s new housing strategy for 2023 to 2028.

Since 2007, Glasgow’s private rented sector (PRS) has increased from 9.5% of the city’s housing stock to around 20% – approximately 59,000 private rented homes are owned by 40,208 registered landlords.

Led by the Tenants Information Service, the commission, which first met in September last year, has recommended training opportunities should be offered to landlords, more inspections to increase the quality of housing and a new network of partner organisations to identify properties falling below standard.

It also agreed a tenant-led forum should be set up to engage with residents, ‘upskilling’ should be offered to help tenants “communicate confidently” about services they receive and a training programme should offer support with identifying illegal evictions.

The council has been told to work with stakeholders to assess how many tenants are in unsuitable PRS accommodation and develop a register of accessible properties. It has been recommended to use enhanced enforcement area powers to improve poor quality housing and commit resources to developing residents’ associations.

Commission members also decided the council should work with partners to ensure students are not “priced out” of education due to unaffordable housing options.

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Cllr Kenny McLean, Glasgow’s housing convener, said: “This commission was established to be led by tenants to address the very real challenges for many of paying rent in the private housing sector.

“The recommendations made by the Glasgow tenant-led housing commission look for reforms in areas such as housing supply, conditions and repairs, energy efficiency, rents and affordability.

“We will continue to work with our partners at a local and national level to do what we can to address these issues.”

Living Rent previously said the commission was a “sham” due to its lack of statutory powers. After the report was published, Danny Pilkington, from the union, said: “While elements of the commission’s recommendations are encouraging, they are generally vague and open-ended.

“Tenants have already had to wait two years for this report to be published, during which time rent has continued to increase across the PRS and socially rented sectors.”

He added: “Living Rent engaged with the commission process in good faith and contributed towards its findings and recommendations. However, a limitation of the commissions is that its recommendations are not binding.

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“It is up to the council to decide how and whether they are implemented. Any vague commitment to future intentions is not good enough.”

The commission was made up of housing groups, tenants’ unions and people with lived experience of private renting. Six organisations were included: Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living (GCIL); Homes for Good; Living Rent; Shelter Scotland; Strathclyde University Union; and the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE).