Nicola Sturgeon announces rent freeze and eviction ban in programme for government
The Scottish Government has announced a ban on evictions and a rent freeze over the winter in a bid to support households struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
The measures will be fast-tracked through Holyrood under emergency legislation and is expected to remain in place until at least the end of March.
The legislation will be backdated to ensure rents are capped at today’s prices.
Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement as part of her Programme for Government.
The First Minister said: “The purpose of the emergency law will be two-fold. Firstly, it will aim to give people security about the roof over their heads this winter through a moratorium on eviction.
“Secondly, the legislation will include measures to deliver a rent freeze. The Scottish Government does not have the power to stop your energy bill increasing, but we can and will take action to ensure that your rent does not rise.”
The government has also confirmed it will increase the Scottish Child Payment to £25 per week per child from 14 November, at which point it will also be rolled out to all under 16s.
Increases to the fuel insecurity fund and discretionary housing payments were also confirmed, while ScotRail fares are set to be frozen until March.
However, Sturgeon warned that the most important levers to help alleviate the cost-of-living crisis remained with Westminster.
She urged the new prime minister to do more, including freezing energy prices, providing cash support for struggling families, and increasing the budgets of devolved governments so they are able to support public services.
She warned that without extra cash, the Scottish Government had to meet extra costs within its existing budgets which will mean pausing some of its plans.
Deputy first minister John Swinney is set to update parliament on Wednesday about an emergency budget review, though Sturgeon said this review would not be concluded until there was information from the UK Government about its plans.
But she has written to Liz Truss to renew her request for a four-nations summit to focus on tackling the crisis, which she warned “poses a danger not just to livelihoods but also to lives”.
She added: “It is, to be blunt, a humanitarian emergency”.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross criticised the Scottish Government for still planning to bring forward a bill on an independence referendum.
He said it was “unacceptable at a time people are struggling” and the “wrong priority at the worst possible time”.
On the programme for government, he said it “falls woefully short of rising to the big challenges we all face here in Scotland, across the UK and around the world” as it contained mostly “reannouncements and future promises”.
Scottish Labour has welcomed the announcements on the rent freeze and eviction ban.
But leader Anas Sarwar said more must be done “right now” and the Scottish Government should be “doing everything they can to help with the powers and resources that they have”.
“It’s not enough. We need to go further and we need to go faster if we are to avert this crisis,” he added.
The Scottish Association of Landlords have criticised news of the rent freeze, warning landlords would remove their properties from the market.
Chief executive John Blackwood said: “Who on earth is going to let a property in the knowledge that they will be unable to meet their own financial and maintenance obligations if their tenants don’t pay the rent or their outgoings increase?
“Instead of helping tenants pay their bills, the Scottish Government has chosen to penalise people who have provided the homes politicians have failed to provide for decades.”
But Living Rent, a campaign group who have long been calling for such a move, said it would have a “massive impact” on households.
In a statement, the group said: “The devil is in the detail but as skyrocketing rents continue to pile on top of out of control energy bills, this will have a massive impact.”
The Scottish Federation of Housing Asociations said a rent freeze must be accompanied by increased government support for social homes.
Chief executive Sally Thomas said: "Without increased government support, we risk housing associations being unable to build the new social homes that Scotland desperately needs, and it is more than likely we won’t achieve the target of 110,000 new affordable homes by 2032.
"It also threatens our ability to maintain and upgrade existing homes: leading to poorer quality, less energy efficient housing.
"We will be working with the Scottish Government in the coming days and weeks to demonstrate the consequences of today’s announcement and ensure this policy does not jeopardise Scotland’s ambitious targets on maintaining and delivering affordable homes and decarbonising housing."