Kincardine Estate provides rented housing – 4 1/2 times as many affordable rented homes for rent as does Aberdeenshire Council in and around Kincardine O’Neil. We do this despite considerable opposition from the Scottish Government which, given the shortage of public funds, prefers to spend taxpayers’ money on more expensive housing solutions.
The estate owns 69 houses. A few of these are tenant farm or employee’s houses but the bulk of them are rented as residential dwelling houses.
Our rental policy seeks to support the local community. If all our houses were rented at the open market rent many local families would be unable to afford to live here. We therefore set rents at lower levels to support local needs. Despite forgoing a very considerable quantity of rent in this manner housing is the estate’s biggest enterprise.
A century of government bias against the private rented sector has prevented us from doing more to help those who need housing.
In 1915 a Rent Act caused rents to be frozen for sitting tenants and that measure was effectively removed under the Thatcher Government in the 1980s. The 70 or so years of restriction had a major effect on the condition of rented housing as it made most of it completely unviable. When I took over managing the estate we had a tenant who’d been in the same house since 1928 – paying the same rent as then, £7 a year. Another moved in seven years later at the depth of the recession; he was paying only £4 a year. The average rental was just £106 a year which was insufficient to insure the houses properly, let alone fund any management, maintenance or improvement. In consequence the condition of most houses was, frankly, awful. Some didn’t yet have electricity or any inside sanitation. This government-inspired deterrence didn’t just affect this estate but large swathes of the private rented sector. It hit especially hard where landlords supported long-term occupation rather than short-term tenancies.
A major programme of investment was embarked upon in the 1980s and is on-going for we find that expectations and statutory requirements means that we have to upgrade the houses that were improved only a couple of decades ago.
Housing is devolved to the Scottish Government and it is sad to report that despite having campaigned for decades for the cause of the private rented sector the Scottish Government, of a mixture of political persuasions, has failed to grasp the opportunities to work effectively with the private rented sector.
For over a decade we’ve pointed out that capital taxation will lead to many affordable rented houses having to be sold to pay tax – the unfortunate tenants, through no fault of theirs, will have to leave their homes so the properties can be sold. We have suggested the Scottish Government campaigns for a change to protect affordable rented housing from those taxes on condition they remain at affordable rent and at an acceptable quality standard. This would achieve 4 major wins:
It is sad to report that, to date, the Scottish Government has failed to grasp that opportunity too. Another wasted opportunity.
The Scottish Government’s bias against the private rented sector means that housing waiting lists are far longer than they could have been. We don’t know how Housing Ministers can meet people who need affordable rented housing but for which they haven’t a home to offer them, without turning away in shame.
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