'Rip-off rents' forcing families into poverty, warns Labour

11 April 2019, 06:42 | Updated: 11 April 2019, 07:11

For rent sign

Labour has condemned "rip-off rents" it says are driving more families into poverty.

It comes after figures revealed a 150% increase in the number of youngsters living in severe poverty in the private rented sector.

There were 50,000 children recorded as falling into this category over the period 2015-16 to 2017-18, Scottish Government data shows, up from 20,000 a decade before.

Households are classed as being in severe poverty if they have less than 50% of the UK median income to live on, after housing costs have been met.

Labour is proposing a "Mary Barbour law" - legislation named after the campaigner who led rent strikes in Glasgow in 1915 - which would bring new restrictions on costs in the private rented sector.

The party's housing spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said such a law "would give people hope that they can have secure, affordable tenancies".

But she also insisted that more council and housing association homes need to be built to help address the affordable housing shortage.

She said: "The housing crisis is creating acute child poverty across Scotland.

"Too many families are caught in a vicious cycle - a lack of affordable public housing forces people to rent privately and as a result they are paying rip-off rents which hammers their cost of living.

"We need an urgent change of pace - building more homes for social rent and fixing the problems in the private rented sector.

"Building more homes is key, social housing is the best value for money as an investment in the nation's housing stock."

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: "Tackling - and ultimately eradicating - child poverty in Scotland is one of our main priorities.

"We do this despite the UK Government's policies that will reduce social security spend in Scotland by £3.7 billion by 2020-21, which is pushing people into poverty. We are investing around £125 million every year to mitigate the worst of these cuts and support those on low incomes.

"In our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, we committed to working with the social housing sector to agree the best ways to keep rents affordable, evaluating the impact of the new private residential tenancy on families with children and ensuring that future affordable housing supply decisions support our objective to achieve a real and sustained impact on child poverty.

"Access to good quality housing is a vital part of our drive to secure economic growth, promote social justice, strengthen communities, and tackle inequality.

"Our target, over the lifetime of this Parliament, is to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes - 35,000 of which will be for social rent.

"This ambitious target is backed by more than £3 billion - the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution."