The chief executive of Get Living certainly grabbed the attention last week with his blaming of Scottish Government rent controls for the pausing of the build-to-rent specialist’s plans for a major housing development on the former College Street Goods Yard at High Street in Glasgow.

The Get Living development which has stalled is certainly a major one - a £200 million project and around 1,500 homes. A project of this type would transform a long-derelict site and play an important part in regeneration, as well as helping Glasgow City Council achieve its target of greatly increasing the population living in the city centre to 40,000 in the next decade or so.

Crucially, it is a project which has been very long indeed in the planning.

Rick de Blaby, chief executive of Get Living, noted the land had been acquired back in 2017, with planning consent achieved “fairly quickly”.

The Bank of England base rate was 0.25% for the vast bulk of the year in which the land was purchased, rising to 0.5% in November 2017.

The base rate is currently 5.25%, having been raised sharply from a record low of 0.1% in December 2021. It fell to 0.1% in March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

So we are clearly in a very different world, in a general sense, for developers and housebuilders, than in 2017 or for that matter right up until early 2022, whether this is the owner-occupied sector or build-to-rent.

Much higher interest rates have had serious implications for millions of households. And builders and developers will generally have seen the cost of debt surge. All in all, the arithmetic is all very different indeed from what it was less than two years ago.

We are seeing housebuilders rein in their construction work in anticipation of softer demand, in what often look like attempts to support prices and protect profit margins by rationing supply.

This is entirely understandable from the perspective of housebuilders, but not good at all from the point of view of prospective homeowners struggling much more these days as a result of the price of mortgages and other cost of living pressures.

Returning to Mr de Blaby, however, his explanation of the pausing of the Get Living scheme at College Street Goods Yard relates not to much higher interest rates and the attendant dramatic change in housing market conditions but to Scottish Government policy, specifically on rent controls.

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The Scottish Parliament in March approved an extension of “emergency protections for tenants” amid the UK’s cost of living crisis. This has, from April 1, capped increases in private rents at 3% for existing tenancies. This followed a short period of rent freezes for existing tenancies implemented by the Scottish Government, which had run from September 2022.

The Scottish Government said on March 8 that its rent control measures “will be extended to 30 September, provided they remain necessary, with the option to extend for another six-month period if required”.

It declared in May that it would “continue to engage with a wide range of stakeholders" as it developed "proposals for long-term rent control”.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald’s Caroline Wilson, Mr de Blaby said he was acutely aware of the financial pressures most people are experiencing from speaking “on a daily basis” to the residents his company serves.

However, he declared that companies such as Get Living “are effectively owned and funded by big global pension funds”.

Mr de Blaby said: "My shareholders include pension funds from the UK, Canada, Australia and Holland and a lot of those are for public sector workers.

"When I go to them and say I want £200 million to undertake a scheme in Glasgow and the fundamentals are really strong but the top-line revenue can't be controlled by us, it's actually controlled by government, [and I say] can I have the same £200 million to do the same project in Manchester or Leeds, it's a really short conversation.”

He added: "We have to draw that balance all the time on how we deliver homes that people can afford and want to live in and still enable some return to the pension fund owners and the tens of millions of pensioners that are affected."

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Mr de Blaby is correct. There is in this context, as in many others, the need to find a balance.

As the head of a build-to-rent provider, his idea of where the balance should lie would seem likely to be very different from that of a tenant.

From a societal perspective, it is easy to see the argument for rent controls. Rents have been surging in many areas, especially in some hotspots in the likes of Glasgow and Edinburgh where rental accommodation has been in desperately short supply.

If you want to have a properly functioning society, at times of market failure or at least unwelcome developments as appears to be the case just now, it is surely incumbent on government to take action for the greater good.

However, the argument for rent controls can also be made from an economic perspective.

Businesses in Glasgow city centre for example, whether retailers, bars, restaurants, cafes or whatever, need a customer base with disposable income. That will enable these businesses to thrive, and create employment and wealth. Where tenants or for that matter owner-occupiers are seeing their pay swallowed up entirely by housing expenses, food costs and bills, that is clearly not a good thing for anyone.

Aditi Jehangir, secretary of Scottish tenants' union Living Rent, has claimed private developers are attempting to force the Scottish Government to squash regulation simply because it “might impact future profits”.

She said: "The build-to-rent sector is holding our housing to ransom, using threats of leaving the market to try and force the Scottish Government to undermine legislation that will benefit tenants."

A Scottish Government spokesman made the very valid point that the rent restrictions only ever applied to in-tenancy increases. This is an important point when considering Mr de Blaby’s remark that the top-line revenue is “actually controlled by government”.

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The in-tenancy stipulation for rent controls is something of a limiting factor, sadly. However, in spite of intense lobbying from some in the property sector, it remains easy to see the great attractiveness of rent controls. And it remains difficult to understand how it would be anything but detrimental from a societal and broader economic perspective if they were abandoned.

This is especially so at the current juncture, where the landscape has been changing rapidly in recent years with a deluge of institutional money into the housing sector. This influx does not seem to have benefited tenants in terms of the cost of housing, although there are obviously other considerations such as the quality of accommodation and the need for someone to build it.

Meanwhile, if what are very moderate rent controls by the Scottish Government are enough to throw major build-to-rent projects off track, this might raise concerns that this model will not be as big a part of the solution to the housing market problems as some might have hoped.