A New Deal for Tenants - draft strategy: consultation
We are consulting on the draft A New Deal for Tenants - rented sector strategy, which seeks to improve accessibility, affordability choices and standards across the whole rented sector in Scotland.
Chapter One: Vision And Strategic Aims
Housing to 2040 sets out a vision for what the Scottish Government wants homes and communities to look and feel like for the people of Scotland, no matter where they live and what point in their life they are at.
It is a vision where homes are affordable for everyone, where standards are the same whether you rent or own your home, where homes have easy access to green spaces and essential services and where homelessness, child poverty and fuel poverty have been eradicated.
Critical to achieving this vision will be to improve the quality, affordability and fairness of the rented sectors. We know that the rented sector provides homes for large numbers of families and individuals across the country, so to help deliver a successful and quality sector for tenants across Scotland, Housing to 2040 included a commitment to publish a Rented Sector Strategy.
While recognising differences in the history, regulation and make-up of the social and private rented sectors, the lived reality for people living in communities across Scotland is that local housing systems are integrated. Neighbourhoods and often even buildings are mixed tenure, with social and private tenants living alongside owner occupiers. We also know that the private and social rented sectors can learn from one another in best practice. Above all, our ambition to ensure that people have equality of outcome in both the private and social rented sector has led to the production of this cross rented sector strategy.
So this Draft Rented Sector Strategy applies to all types of rented home whether rented from a social or private landlord. While the two sectors have important differences in terms of regulation and how they are run, the most important thing they provide is homes and it is right that people living in those homes can expect similar quality, affordable choices and fairness of the terms on which they rent.
The final Strategy, informed by tenants, is being developed to improve accessibility, affordability and standards across the whole rented sector in Scotland. In this draft, our foremost focus will be on improvement in the private rented sector, which has further to travel as set out in chapter 2, in order to ensure that no matter where you rent, your rights, standards of service and property condition standards are comparable.
However, equally, we will be looking to work with all landlords across the social and private sectors to ensure effective progress in the next 5 years towards our vision for the rented sector to be an effective part of a whole housing system that, by 2040, offers quality, affordability and fairness to all tenants.
That matters because, while just over half of Scottish people living in rented housing aspire to own their own home, many households will benefit from having the option of an affordable, good quality rented home and we want to ensure that residents in rented homes in Scotland are provided with great homes, flexibility and choice.
This draft strategy sets out significant ambition for change and will require a dedicated, phased approach to ensure that the changes are effective, the consequences understood and we can secure the best outcomes possible for people living in rented homes.
This draft strategy is also underpinned by our ambition to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2031/32, with the aim that at least 70% of those homes will be for social rent and 10% in Scotland’s remote, rural and island communities supported by a Remote, Rural & Islands Action Plan.
So our vision is for a rented sector which contributes to the following outcomes:
- Everyone has access to a warm, safe, affordable and energy efficient home that meets their needs: the rented sector promotes equality of housing outcomes and supports delivery of the right to adequate housing;
- Improving the quality of rented homes: all rented accommodation, irrespective of tenure, provides tenants with good quality, sustainable/net carbon homes, supporting social justice and equalities;
- Ensuring adequate supply of homes: rented accommodation supports local approaches to maximising supply of the right homes in the right places and improving choice, affordability and quality in both the social and private sectors;
- Anyone who requires support to manage and stay in their tenancy can access it: no matter the tenure, all tenants who require additional support can access it;
- People have affordable housing choices: there are available housing choices with total housing costs that are proportionate to people’s average incomes, including for those on low to modest incomes and people with an acute housing need have swift access to the Social Rented Sector;
- We recognise that the private rented sector provides a range of housing solutions, with options that are affordable for most people, allowing them to benefit from the flexibility and choice of location provided by the sector;
- The rented sector supports a place based approach to housing that supports community empowerment; and
- All tenants have a voice: building on existing strengths and experience in Tenant Participation in the social sector that extends to all tenant groups.
In order to achieve this vision, the following strategic aims have been identified:
- to ensure that all homes for rent in Scotland are good quality and help deliver net zero aims;
- to provide affordable options, irrespective of the tenure lived in or where in Scotland a home is rented;
- to help enable growth and investment and help increase the overall supply of affordable housing;
- to contribute to tackling child poverty, eradicating fuel poverty, ending homelessness and ensuring the right to an adequate home; and
- to ensure a clear understanding of the needs of minority ethnic communities, women, people with disabilities and all people with protected characteristics – informs delivery of this strategy to promote equality of outcome and experience of the rented sector.
Overview of key actions
New housing legislation will be introduced during this Parliament to support the policy aims of strengthening tenants’ rights, improving regulation and tackling affordability. The results from this consultation, alongside extensive work with tenants’ groups from both the private and social sector and in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will inform a final version of the Strategy to be published in 2022.
Good quality housing will generate benefits that can help tackle poverty (including for families with children), promote equality, support wellbeing, eradicate homelessness and boost economic recovery by building affordable, sustainable communities where people can prosper.
In essence, we want to ensure that everyone has a safe, warm place to call home and have committed to taking forward an ambitious programme of affordable housebuilding, eradicating homelessness and rough sleeping, and strengthening rights for people in the rented sector.
By 2025 we intend to deliver:
- enhanced rights for tenants;
- new requirements for data collection on rents in the private sector;
- new cross-tenure housing standards;
- a new Private Rented Sector Regulator; and
- legislation to underpin a new effective system of national rent controls.
The right to an adequate home
Our starting position for any strengthening of the rented sector is that first and foremost - social or private - it should provide good quality homes and services for people.
We also know that whilst the right to housing is already a human right enshrined in international law and that we have taken positive action in some areas such as homelessness - where Scotland already has some of the strongest rights in the world – not everyone can yet access an adequate home and the rented sector provides both opportunities and challenges to securing this aim.
We want to ensure that people don’t just have theoretical rights but can practically realise those rights, that judicial remedies are available when things go wrong and that housing rights are effective in practice. Ultimately everyone should have a home that is affordable, warm and meets their needs.
Unfortunately, many people in Scotland still cannot access appropriate housing. We know that significant inequality in housing outcomes remain. Some have nowhere to live or live in places which do not meet their housing needs or are of an unacceptable standard. Those in Scotland facing particular difficulties include people experiencing the most acute forms of homelessness (those who are rough sleeping); victims of domestic abuse; Gypsies, Roma and Travellers; migrants; tenants without security of tenure; people who cannot find an accessible home to meet their needs and people facing poverty and destitution. For many, renting can provide a good solution.
In the social sector, strengths include lower rents and long term security of tenure and the private rented sector can provide flexibility of location and tenure. However, the private rented sector in particular can also be part of the problem - especially where it provides poor quality but high priced stock or where landlords do not fulfil their duties or intentionally flout the law.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has underlined that the right to adequate housing should not be interpreted narrowly. Rather, it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity. The characteristics of the right to adequate housing are clarified mainly in the Committee’s general comments No. 4 (1991).
For housing to be adequate, it must, at a minimum, meet the following criteria:
1. Security of tenure: housing is not adequate if its occupants do not have a degree of tenure security which guarantees legal protection against forced evictions, harassment and other threats.
2. Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure: housing is not adequate if its occupants do not have safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, energy for cooking, heating, lighting, food storage or refuse disposal.
3. Affordability: housing is not adequate if its cost threatens or compromises the occupants’ enjoyment of other human rights.
4. Habitability: housing is not adequate if it does not guarantee physical safety or provide adequate space, as well as protection against the cold, damp, heat, rain, wind, other threats to health and structural hazards.
5. Accessibility: housing is not adequate if the specific needs of disadvantaged and marginalised groups are not taken into account.
6. Location: housing is not adequate if it is cut off from employment opportunities, health-care services, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities, or if located in polluted or dangerous areas.
7. Cultural adequacy: housing is not adequate if it does not respect and take into account the expression of cultural identity.
While all of these criteria inform policy in Scotland, some are better developed than others. For example, it is vital to understand the key role of renting policy in wider place-making and neighbourhood design agendas. This is more developed and understood in the social rented sector, but more needs to be done to understand how the private rented sector contributes.
In March 2021, the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership published 30 recommendations for a new human rights framework for Scotland. The Scottish Government has accepted all of these recommendations and a new multi-treaty Human Rights Bill will be introduced during this parliamentary term incorporating the right to adequate housing for all. This should also result in an increased awareness of rights and help individuals to enforce those rights, including within the rented sector.
To establish the best way to make the right to adequate housing a reality, we will undertake a comprehensive audit of our current housing and homelessness legislation. The audit will help us to identify where there are gaps in current domestic legislation and where remedies for violations of housing rights can be strengthened, including within the rented sector. It will also help us to assess how well current legislation protects marginalised groups and people with protected characteristics. We intend to commission this audit before the end of the 2021/22 financial year.
Examining the role that the rented sector plays in ensuring the right to an adequate home is fundamental to this work, with many of the areas we are seeking to improve and enhance within this consultation making huge strides towards achieving rented properties that meet the characteristics of an adequate home.
Of course delivering the right to an adequate home in practice means ending homelessness and understanding the role the rented sector can play in both causing homelessness and being part of the solution. Despite policies to support tenants, sometimes a tenancy cannot be sustained and a tenant can face homelessness. Although we have some of the strongest homelessness legislation in the world, which ensures people receive the support they need, we recognise that prevention and early action is critical.
Each local authority has a Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan which has the aim of changing the homelessness system and moving people into appropriate settled accommodation reducing the lengths of stays in temporary accommodation and ultimately reducing the use of temporary accommodation at all. In order to do this local authorities will seek to prevent homelessness occurring in the first instance but where homelessness does happen they will work with the household so that they can move to settled accommodation which will be sustainable and remove the potential for repeat homelessness to happen. Often this settled accommodation is in the social rented sector, but the private rented sector also has a part to play to see where homelessness can be prevented. The private sector can also be explored as a housing options solution as a means for a local authority to support a household into a sustainable, settled home where this would meet their needs.
Housing First is an approach which benefits people who have the most complex needs. It provides wrap around support and is proven to be very successful in terms of tenancy sustainment (rates vary but generally around 80%). Both the social rented sector and the private rented sector are used for the accommodation with the support being provided by a mix of statutory and third sector providers.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw many people experiencing homelessness accommodated temporarily in hotels and bed and breakfasts. The Scottish Government provided £140,000 towards a pilot operated by Cyrenians and Crisis to create a pathway from hotels to settled accommodation in Edinburgh’s private rented sector. The pilot focused on supporting people from a variety of housing backgrounds with a higher need for tenancy support. Historically, the private rented sector has been underused in Scotland as a housing option for this group.
While the private rented sector cannot replace the critical role social housing plays in ending most people’s homelessness for good, the pilot showed that, when the right tenancy support is included in the package, the private rented sector can provide choice and relatively rapid access to settled housing. Social housing cannot always offer this, especially in a pressured market such as Edinburgh’s. The private rented sector pilot has helped 24 tenants to secure a home and the first tenant has now been in his home for a year.
This consultation seeks your views on how we can build on the important work that has taken place over the last decade or so and go further, to ensure that the fundamental human right of everyone – including people living in the rented sector – having the right to an adequate home.
To do this, we examine what we can do in key areas such as improving tenants’ rights and choice, affordability and working to ensure delivery of high standards of property management and professional levels of service. We examine what legislative change might be required and what we need to consider to ensure tenants’ needs are met.
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