Struggling renters have been “badly let down” by SNP and Green politicians who rejected an emergency rent freeze, according to the North East MSP behind the plan.
Campaigners want the Scottish Government to address soaring costs for tenants, which they say are “pouring petrol on the cost of living crisis”.
But MSPs voted down attempts to write-in a rent freeze as part of the government’s Coronavirus Recovery Bill, which would have kicked in before longer-term controls are introduced in 2024.
Tonight I took the case for an Emergency Rent Freeze to the Scottish Parliament.
The establishment may have the numbers in Parliament, but workers have the numbers on the streets. We are on the march.
— Mercedes Villalba (@LabourMercedes) June 28, 2022
Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba, who was behind the attempt at Holyrood, argued tenants cannot afford to wait years for action.
She was opposed by the SNP, Greens, Lib Dems and Conservatives in a 94- 21 defeat late on Tuesday night.
There are currently 23 MSPs – nearly a fifth of the total in parliament – who are landlords or own shares in letting companies.
Tenants ‘at the mercy of landlords’
Ms Villalba said: “The SNP-Green government has badly let down Scotland’s renters by using its majority at Holyrood to block a rent freeze.
“Tenants will now be at the mercy of landlords, who will be free to hike up rents during an ever worsening cost of living crisis.”
THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT IS FAILING TENANTS
By hiking up rents, landlords are pouring petrol on the cost of living crisis. By voting down a rent freeze and failing to come up with any other protections to prevent unaffordable increases, the Scottish government is failing tenants. pic.twitter.com/QIrGYPLeJf
— Living Rent (@Living_Rent) June 29, 2022
We reported previously that Ms Villalba’s first attempt was withdrawn after it was shown to be unworkable.
Ms Villalba agreed to drop it on the “understanding” the government will work with her.
But she said Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney declined her invitation to meet.
The fact that landlords have quite so much sway in politics is a very big issue that we need to talk about.
– MSP Emma Roddick
She said Tenant’s Rights Minister Patrick Harvie “offered no constructive proposals to cap or limit rent increases” in the legislation.
Mr Harvie argued the “near-blanket approach” of Ms Villalba’s amendment, “coupled with the lack of opportunity for engagement”, means it is at high risk of a successful legal challenge by landlords.
He warned such a legal challenge could hold up the other government measures.
Mr Harvie said the plan “significantly increases” incentives for landlords to bring tenancies to an end early and reset rents.
That would lead to a “dramatic rise in evictions”, he warned.
SNP MSP ‘agonised’ over vote
Following the debate, Highlands SNP MSP Emma Roddick said it is a “difficult thing to agonise over whether you agree with your party”.
Really disappointed to have my mic cut & then not be allowed to speak in tonight's COVID Recovery debate.
What I'd have said (🧵):
Having lost my mam to COVID, being ready to deal with future pandemics is incredibly important to me. Most important to me, as always, is housing.
— Emma Roddick MSP (@Emma_Roddick) June 28, 2022
On social media, she wrote: “If I thought there was a chance that my voting for these amendments today would equal rent being frozen, I would have voted with her.
“I’ve been given lots of reasons that this won’t happen, but the main sticking point seems to be that resulting legislation would not be strong enough to stand up to the inevitable legal challenge by landlords.
“If that’s the reason, then the fact that landlords have quite so much sway in politics is a very big issue that we need to talk about.”