It always seems to be a national month, week or day. We are in the grizzly part of Movember, last week we had National Sandwich Day, and Sunday was apparently National Nachos Day! Many awareness days are shameless self-promotion or just for comedic purposes. Some raise huge sums of money for worthy charities, and others bring issues to the forefront of the mind which should really be given attention every day.
Today, which falls into the latter category, is National Landlord Day. This is about highlighting the role of private sector landlords in Scotland.
Since this time last year, those working in private rented sector housing policy have turned significantly greyer and our filing cabinets are struggling under the weight of recent correspondence and draftings. Let’s take a look at what’s gone on since the last National Landlord Day.
The Private Tenancies (Housing) (Scotland) Bill was introduced at the end of 2015 and was debated, amended and added to throughout the first few months of 2016. The Bill received Royal Assent in April and will bring a new, more secure tenancy regime in at the beginning of 2018. We remain concerned that there was very little recognition of the demands put on rural housing and the Act may lead to unintended consequences.
In April we welcomed the Rural Housing Fund and the Island-specific top up in September. This three year fund enables the development of affordable housing where there is demand in the most rural communities. The Scottish Government is still accepting applications for feasibility funding, the loans option and the grant option.
The SNP lost their majority in the May elections which placed the Scottish Greens in a more powerful position. The Greens have strong ideas about rent controls and security of tenure which could influence new policies. The SNP committed to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes. I believe it is also important to also focus on the need to retain current affordable homes including those offered by private rural landlords.
In September the planning review began which brings a potential opportunity to ensure planning policy will take greater account of rural needs. This will hopefully result in enabling appropriate development to be delivered through an efficient system.
In October we welcomed the publication of two Fuel Poverty Reports for the Scottish Government, one which was focussed on rural circumstances.
By 2017’s National Landlord Day we may have more clarity on minimum energy efficiency standards for the private sector. There has been a significant amount of background work completed and there is cross party support to reduce fuel poverty and increase energy efficiency. A consultation and Warm Homes Bill will be key features in the 2017 housing policy diary.
We’ll see more applications to the Rural Housing Fund and will begin to see the results of the funding. I also hope members continue to seek other means to achieve rural housing development as they have done previously through partnerships with Highland Small Communities’ Housing Trust, local communities, and Local Authorities.
The Planning Review panel will report to Scottish Ministers in the summer which could include recommendations for amendments to the current planning system.
I see the latter half of 2017 being busy with preparing members for the new tenancy regime. It will be vitally important for landlords, tenants and agents to be fully engaged and informed.
We have members who are currently delivering fantastic homes in innovative ways. Our members want to see communities thrive and housing is at the heart of that. I do not want to be looking back on 2017 as the year that enthusiasm for the rural private rented sector dwindled. As pressure mounts on landlords to deliver high quality homes at affordable rents we hope they will be supported during this time of change in the sector.
However, despite having to pay significantly more money to the hairdresser to colour away the greys after what has been a particularly demanding year of housing policy, I remain generally positive that the rural private rented sector landlords will continue to face the challenges put in front of them. Here’s to National Landlord Day and all those who work tirelessly and remain committed to delivering Scottish Government’s aims, and much needed homes, in rural Scotland.