Thank you Presiding Officer, I’m very pleased to open today’s Stage 3 debate on the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) Bill.
The debate over the past three days has been wide-ranging, thought-provoking and often lively and I thank colleagues from across the chamber for engaging on the vital matters at hand and to the majority of the Parliament being supportive of the protective measures we are introducing.
Presiding Officer let me also thank you and the clerks of Parliament who have worked with Members on amendments and to ensure this bill was at an accelerated timetable and to the Local Government and Housing Committee for its scrutiny yesterday. That has been critical to ensuring that we can introduce these important protections ahead of winter.
My grateful thanks also go to the bill team for their incredibly hard work. And my thanks also go to the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants Rights who is part of my team.
This bill demonstrates what can be done when parties work together – both in Parliament and in government. Our shared values as expressed in the Bute House Agreement are clear to see through this Bill.
Presiding Officer, passing the legislation is not job done of course. The Scottish Government is committed to continuing to engage with the Parliament beyond the required reporting, through the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee and with the Parliament as a whole.
A common theme in the conversations I have had with stakeholders recently has been recognition that the current cost crisis poses a danger, not just to livelihoods, but to lives. A recognition that government has to act.
So I am very proud this Government has brought forward this unprecedented legislation to provide the reassurance and stability we can, with the powers we have, to tenants.
Tenants, many of whom are so much more exposed to the harsh winds of the cost crisis and already struggling to heat homes and put food on the table.
That is why we have already allocated almost £3 billion this year that will help fight the cost of living crisis and strengthen support for households £1billion worth of support is only available in Scotland like our Scottish Child Payment. Another innovation of this government to support people in need.
We have been right to act, and we have done so robustly. While the primary purpose of our legislation is to protect tenants, during this cost crisis, our package of measures has been closely considered and well balanced to recognise that some landlords too, may be facing pressures from this costs crisis.
That is why we have built in a number of safeguards to ensure that the circumstances of landlords are appropriately reflected.
I have listened carefully to the concerns about private sector landlords seeking to leave the sector as a result of these measures. Over the last 15 years, there has been significant overall growth in the sector.
And that’s been through a time of substantial change in how the sector is regulated. Healthy markets, flourishing responsible landlords and public sector intervention can co-exist.
This Bill firmly sits within that context providing the right balance between supporting tenants and helping landlords to continue to offer properties for rent.
Throughout the discussion this week there has also been an important focus on the potential challenges of these measures for the social housing sector. The work that social landlords do in meeting our ambitious targets for new affordable homes and improving the quality of existing homes has been rightly praised.
This government works alongside them in our aim to ensure that everyone should have a safe warm affordable place to live.
It is right that tenants in the social sector are protected during this time and, of course, no social tenants will face a rent rise during these next six months ahead.
And I also recognise that there are distinctive ways in how tenants are engaged in setting rents, how the sector is funded and how rental income feeds directly into services and investment.
That is why I have welcomed our frequent engagement and discussions with representatives of social landlords over the last two weeks and have been encouraged by the shared commitment to our common goals and the appetite to continue on our collaborative approach. We will get on with reaching an agreement at pace through the task and finish group that is already underway.
Our social housing sector is one we can all be enormously proud of. This Government’s consistent commitment to delivery of affordable homes over the last 15 years far outstrips anything in other parts of the UK with delivery of 113,000 affordable homes since 2007, over 79,000 of which were for social rent, and with 62% more affordable homes delivered per head of population than in England.
And our ambitions in the next decade shows our determination to build on that track record with £3.6 billion funding being made available in this Parliamentary term towards that goal. That track record and those commitments are what give providers and funders the confidence to continue to invest to the benefit of tenants.
And I have also welcomed the constructive engagement we have had with landlords in the private sector. There is a recognition that excessive rents are not acceptable, and there is a recognition that tenants are struggling right now.
Presiding Officer, engagement with stakeholders as we developed this bill, has been vital and will continue to be so through the coming months. Working in partnership I know we can realise our shared aim - to stabilise rent costs and keep people in their homes at a really difficult time.
Presiding officer, the primary purpose of this bill is to provide necessary protection for tenants during the current cost of living crisis and is ground-breaking in the way it achieves that. The Bill before us also recognises that some landlords can be impacted by the cost crisis to create robust and workable legislation.
Presiding Officer, Members will shortly vote on this Bill as amended. And whilst at an expedited timetable there has been no shortage of debate and discussion from across the Chamber. The Bill provides a choice. Do we support people in need? My challenge to all MSPs across this parliament, is are they on the side of those most impacted by this cost crisis or are they not?
This government has chosen to use the powers we have in this Parliament to help many of the people hardest hit right now and facing a winter of anxiety.
This Bill is for those people - who need this Parliament to support them when they need it most. I urge you to support tenants, to support people in need and to support this Bill.
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