The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill 2022 was introduced last week including a rent freeze and eviction ban for tenants. We’ve gone through the legislation line by line, and here’s our take.    

Emergency legislation in the Scottish Parliament is rare. And even more so at such speed. Previous crises that have prompted Holyrood to act at such an unusual pace include the prospect of a Brexit cliff edge and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fact that Ministers were willing to expedite the Cost of Living Bill in the same way perhaps illustrates the enormity of the spiralling costs which are brutally squeezing people’s incomes across Scotland.

The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill 2022 has been introduced as part of the Scottish Government’s overall response to the emergency situation caused by the impact of the cost crisis.  These new temporary measures are cause for celebration, or perhaps more accurately a source of great relief, for tenants across the country.

Putting a hard limit on rent increases will prevent landlords from stretching tenant incomes beyond breaking point. The increased restrictions on evictions will offer security and certainty for renters in the turbulent months to come.

The Bill is not perfect. No Bill which flies through a parliamentary process that would normally take months, in a mere three days, could ever be anything but flawed.

Tenants can still be evicted because the landlord needs to sell their home, even if they’ve never been in arrears for a single penny. The threshold at which social tenants might face eviction is worryingly low, meaning many who rent their home from the council or housing association, remain just as vulnerable as before this Bill passed.

None of this means it shouldn’t be welcomed. It’s a bold piece of law-making, brimming with good intentions. However, the cracks are a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to fix Scotland’s broken housing system. It’s a system that can’t be fixed by temporary measures, no matter how welcome they may be.

The flaws are fundamental and require permanent change. There is no time for our MSPs to rest on their laurels.

Record numbers of children in Scotland are trapped in temporary accommodation, denied their right to somewhere safe and secure to grow up. Indeed, there are more children in Scotland without somewhere to call home than there are primary school pupils in all of Stirling. The Bill passed last week won’t reach them; it won’t give them the homes they need.

Yes, these temporary measures will prevent people from becoming homeless. But, for the thousands who’ve already been deprived of their home, the Bill does nothing.

We recently published our call for a housing emergency action plan. It urges the First Minister to take urgent steps to protect households in Scotland in the long term, not just for the next few months. Specifically, it highlights three key priorities:

  • Buy and build 38,500 social homes by 2026
  • Fully fund local homelessness services
  • Guarantee the right to a home for everyone experiencing homelessness.

Only by making this kind of permanent change to a housing system that is completely unfit for purpose, can Scotland’s housing emergency be brought to a permanent end.

None of this is to say that the Bill passed last week is bad. It isn’t. It’s bold legislation, filled with good intentions. Instead, it is simply to say that the fight for home goes on and Shelter Scotland will be in it till it’s won.

With thousands of campaigners by our side, we will continue to stand with people facing homelessness, expose our broken and biased system and defend those hit hardest by the housing emergency. Will you join them?