The private rented sector is the easy whipping boy for many politicians. Its growth has caused problems for some, many would like to ban it from existing all together. Some believe it is too large and even that landlords should not make a profit.
In Scotland, if anything, the perception is worse. Many a politician in Holyrood would banish the sector entirely, given the chance.
Yet there are those few, those happy few, who support the sector.
By and large we are caught in the cross fire as there are more tenants than landlords and politicians need votes.
This has meant the private rented sector is viewed as an area where politicians will try and usurp each other to gain votes.
There persists the view that the person in a town hall knows best at delivering housing. The growth of the private rented sector has come at the same time as the decline of social housing and the influence that the council has on people’s life, has declined. This has meant that the private rented sector has become easy target for political groups looking to gather votes. No policy can be ruled out that will gather votes for the cause or party.
This has led to the resurgence of rent control. An easy policy for politicians to talk about and a vote grabber with tenants.
The government in Holyrood has committed to introduce rent control via the policy of ‘rent pressure zones’. This will involve a council writing to the government to ask permission to freeze rent for two years.
Politicians will soon be door knocking promising if you vote for them they will freeze your rent. This is a race to the bottom, by all parties.
The wish to garner votes, to get elected as a councillor, a member of the Scottish parliament, an MP or for inderef2 all mean that the politicians will look for issues where they can present – to misquote the white queen in Alice through the looking glass – “Jam today and Jam tomorrow”.
Populism at the expense of a sector is not a worry for the elected representatives. What is worse, is that the effects of such an experiment can be seen in the republic of Ireland. The attempt to fix the market and to control rents has shown how politicians cannot help themselves and get involved and try and fix the market.
The use of populist policies is not new and the private rented sector with a growing population has meant that it has attracted the anger from some quarters and the search for quick solutions has attracted the gaze of politicians. Their own views have often clouded the delivery of sensible and objective polices. This has resulted in policies aimed at winning votes rather than delivering better housing. Yet the example from Ireland is that it is used for political purposes to gather votes – irrespective of the outcome!