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The Housing Crisis and Landlordism

As more councils in Scotland declare a housing emergency, our April 2024 briefing examines the state of housing in Scotland and what can be done to tackle the crisis. 1.5 million people in Scotland are denied a safe, stable home, and this Shelter Scotland graphic summarises some of the issues.

The lack of social housing is a significant factor in the private rented sector in Scotland more than doubling in size since 1999. The number of households in the social rented sector fell from 690,000 (32% of all households) in 1999 to 590,000 (24% of all households) in 2019. Even with the recently ended rent cap, rents in Scotland increased by 6% because of loopholes in the provisions. Over the past decade, rents in Scotland’s largest cities have almost doubled.

While building more homes is part of the solution, the UK already has the European average for homes per capita at 468 per 1,000 people. The problem is landlordism. As landlords bought up properties, prices rose, and now virtually everyone struggles to afford a home despite a net gain in housing stock. Landlords can raise rents as high as they think they can get, supported by limited tenants’ rights. Nick Bano argues in his new bookAgainst Landlords‘, “Where Adam Smith and Karl Marx found common ground was in the idea that everyone’s interests are aligned against landlords: they are an economic deadweight.”

We therefore argue that the focus of Scottish Government policy must be on building social housing and taking measures to curb landlordism. That means the Housing Bill has to take steps to protect tenants from unfair evictions and high rents and have the policy outcome of actively discouraging investment in buying up homes for the private rented sector. We also show how building new social homes could be financed using pension schemes regulated by the Scottish Government.