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Homelessness risk higher in Highlands new Crisis report reveals

By Neil MacPhail

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Affordable rents shortage.
Affordable rents shortage.

A lack of properties available to rent at affordable rates in the Highlands and Islands is putting people at greater risk of homelessness.

Only 10% of 1-3 bedroom homes advertised in the private rented sector in the region are affordable for people who need housing benefit to support their rent.

The data, from a report published this week by homelessness charity Crisis, highlights the greater risk of homelessness in the north.

Ariane Burgess, Scottish Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands said: “While inflation remains high and household bills continue to rise, there is an almost impossible strain on people’s budgets.

"Measures introduced by Greens in government like emergency rent controls and restrictions on evictions are helping to relive this pressure but, without the full fiscal powers of an independent country, there is very little we can do to address the growing gap between benefit payments and essential costs like rents.

“The Scottish Government has increased the child payment and is mitigating the impact of the bedroom tax and the two-child cap but reckless Tory economics are eating away at everyone’s household budgets.

“The difference between housing benefit and private sector market rent for a two-bedroom property in the region is around £837 a year.

"The UK Government must increase housing benefit to ensure the poorest in our society don’t face the risk of homeslessness."

Ms Burgess added: “Meanwhile, through the increased Rural and Island Housing Fund, our recently announced support for rural housing enablers and action to tackle empty and second homes, we’ll be redoubling our efforts in the Scottish Government to ensure more homes that local people can afford are created across the region."

In July The Inverness Courier highlighted that there were only seven properties available to rent as the city and surrounds were experiencing unprecedented supply and demand issues with record numbers of applications being put in for what is available, according to letting agents.

The shortage was believed to be due to increased legislation surrounding rental properties including the Eviction Ban and Rent Increase Cap.

At that time Vicky Smith, lettings manager at Home Sweet Home estate agents, said: “The rental market in Inverness and the surrounding area is experiencing unprecedented supply and demand issues making it very difficult for prospective tenants to find suitable and affordable properties.

“Some of our landlords are selling their properties as they rely on the rental income to cover the cost of their mortgage payments, as well as to fund repairs and improvements to their property.

“Their mortgage payments may have increased, and they are unable to increase the rent by more than three per cent as per the current guidelines and have therefore decided it is no longer viable to rent them out.”

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