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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Nan Spowart

People claiming benefits locked out of private rented sector, research shows

SHOCKING new research shows that 92% of the private rented sector in Scotland is unaffordable for people claiming benefits.

The average shortfall in rent for a two-bedroom home is £108.10 per month, according to a report commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland in partnership with Fife Council.

Aberdeenshire has the smallest shortfall at £6.64 while the shortfall in Greater Glasgow is £201.78.

Across Scotland, just one in 12 advertised properties in the private rented sector is covered by Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

Aberdeenshire has the largest percentage of “affordable” properties at 19.7% but West Dunbartonshire has no properties available at all, at or below the LHA rate. “The private rented sector is now largely unaffordable to new entrants or those seeking to move within the sector who are in receipt of LHA,” the report concludes.

The findings come after it was revealed that Edinburgh is the most expensive place in the UK outside London to rent a room, with prices higher than even in some of London’s poshest districts.

Rents in Scotland’s capital have jumped 22% since the third quarter of 2022, faster than the 16% average across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The average rent now in Scotland is £685 but in Edinburgh, it is £896 per month, beating Kingston on Thames at £890 and Twickenham where the average is £874.

The figures from SpareRoom, the UK’s largest flatshare site, are based on around 200,000 adverts and include bills.

“With rents reaching another record high across the UK it’s clear that the rental crisis isn’t loosening its grip any time soon,” said SpareRoom’s Matt Hutchinson (below).

“Due to increased demand, there are sharp rises in areas that have historically been deemed more affordable, meaning the supply of affordable accommodation is shrinking even further.”

As a result of high rents and the cost of living crisis, the charity StepChange Scotland has reported an uptick in new clients with rent arrears, jumping to 25% from 21% in the last few months.

“It’s a worry to see the proportion of clients in arrears with essential bills in Scotland creep up, especially as the weather turns and energy bills begin to put a greater burden on people’s budgets again,” said director Richard Lane.

“While energy bills have dropped from the record highs we saw last year, less government support and a build-up of arrears across other household bills will make this winter just as challenging for households.”

The Scottish Government has imposed a rent cap but there is a loophole, meaning it does not apply to new tenancies. This has resulted in a steep rise in rents each time tenancies change hands.

Scotland’s tenants’ union Living Rent said rent controls are needed to bring rents down.

“For a nation to pride itself on social responsibility, the state of our housing is pushing often vulnerable people further into poverty,” said Living Rent secretary Aditi Jehangir.

“A failure to build social housing, escalating private rents and a shortage of temporary accommodation have created a perfect storm for tenants and led many councils to declare housing emergencies.

“The rent cap has been a good sticking plaster but now we need rent controls to bring rents down and we need all governments to unfreeze LHA rates to ensure everyone can afford their homes.”

According to property website Zoopla, the average UK renter now has to pay more than 28% of their gross income on rent, more than at any other time in the last decade.

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