A recently published report found that home ownership has dropped from 69% in Scotland at its 2004 peak to 63% now.
The Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) would like to see a long-term strategic plan that allows people to choose the right housing solution for their circumstances, recognising those requirements are likely to change over time.
For example, although more people now rent than buy in city centres, often this is through choice. Homes in the centres of cities are often large, multi-bedroom properties, which would always have required a large deposit and are out of the reach of most young people. However, small groups of young professionals may seek to rent this kind of property as they prioritise a desire to live in fashionable city-centre areas and the supply should exist to allow them to do this if they choose.
However, an even larger number of people, recognising the growing flux in the job market choose to prioritise saving money for a time when they might be out of work, rather than focussing on a deposit to buy a house. This would seem like a very sensible long-term plan and considerably more responsible than the situation we saw a decade ago with people over-stretching themselves simply to “get on the property ladder”. These people were the ones hit hardest by the credit crunch and property crash of 2008 which is still affecting supply in city centres.
None of this is to say that there are not challenges which landlords must address. We must work with the third sector and government to educate landlords about the law and encourage stronger enforcement of regulations to drive criminal players out of the market. Equally, we must work with tenants to ensure they are aware of their own responsibilities under their lease. Achieving this balance will help defuse tensions which can often arise through misunderstanding between tenants and landlords.
By working together and acknowledging the changing nature of the demand in the housing market it is possible to achieve the right balance that will end the housing crisis in Scotland in the future.