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Patrick Harvie: Short-term lets ‘harmful to society’

Harvie said it was not 'hugely likely' that landlords would leave the private rental sector over rent controls | Alamy

Patrick Harvie: Short-term lets ‘harmful to society’

The use of housing for short-term lets is “harmful to society”, Patrick Harvie has said.

Speaking exclusive to Holyrood magazine, the Scottish Green co-leader and tenants’ rights minister said regulation of short-term lets was “necessary” because it was “about recognising that homes should be homes”.

He added: “That's their fundamental purpose – it’s for people to make a home and to make a life in them. Anything that results in houses being taken out of that fundamental purpose is harmful to society.”

He also defended the Scottish Government’s plans for rent controls, including in its new Housing Bill.

Published last month, the legislation would obligate local authorities to submit a report to ministers assessing rent levels and the rate of increases in private tenancies.

This report would include any recommendations to designate rent control areas, though the power to implement such controls would lie with Scottish ministers, who must be satisfied that restricting rent increases is “necessary and proportionate”.

However, opponents of the bill warn such action could cause landlords to leave the sector, ultimately pushing prices higher as demand outstrips supply.

In response to such claims, Harvie told Holyrood: “I don't think that's a hugely likely scenario.”

He accepted that some landlords “will decide that they’ve had enough” but argued regulation of the private rented sector in recent years had not impacted supply.

He said: “Over the last 10, 15 years we've seen a gradual increase in regulation in the private rented sector, and there have been some landlords at any one point who’ll think ‘okay, it's not for me anymore’. But over the course of that period of gradually increased regulation, the sector has grown significantly in terms of the actual scale of supply.”

And he added that without further regulation of the sector, “we can’t expect [the current] system to meet the human right to adequate, affordable housing”.

Harvie entered government alongside fellow co-leader Lorna Slater in August 2021, following the Bute House Agreement between their party and the SNP.

This agreement has continued under Humza Yousaf, who succeeded Nicola Sturgeon as first minister a year ago.

In a wide-ranging interview, Harvie expressed some disappointment that some of the key targets set out in the Bute House Agreement had not been met.

He said: “On a simple personal level, you would like to sign an agreement like that and just start working through it in a plodding, methodical way and tick all the boxes. That's not how the real world works. It's not how government works… Active travel as a good example.

“Even if it wasn't for the financial situation of the Scottish Government and the cuts to capital spending from the UK settlement, I think we probably bit off a bit more than we could chew with the idea of getting to that £320m figure so quickly.”

The agreement had pledged to allocate £320m to active travel by the 2024-25 budget. Parliament passed that budget in February, with only £196m allocated to the portfolio.

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