Today, politicians finally woke up to the housing emergency hitting Scotland. And let’s be clear, for hundreds of thousands of tenants like those in my union, these words will be entirely meaningless without strong action from our politicians.

Everyone renting in Scotland already knows that Scotland has been in the midst of a housing emergency for years.

Over the last decade, as the private sector has doubled, we have been hit again and again by skyrocketing rents, with two bed properties increasing by 86% in Greater Glasgow and 79% in Lothian, all the while social and council housing waiting lists increased and rising rents and poor protections for tenants have led to record level homelessness.

The Herald: Pictured: Rents for two bed properties have increased by 86% in Greater GlasgowPictured: Rents for two bed properties have increased by 86% in Greater Glasgow (Image: newsquest)

The end of the rent cap has seen the situation get worse. Some of our members have faced rent increase notices of up to 80%. My neighbours, a flat of four students, have been given a £400 rent increase notice which the landlord claimed was a mortgage increase. And this is not uncommon.

Stories like these demonstrate the clear need for long-term protections, specifically effective rent controls and new tenants rights. This is something that the Scottish Government can deliver now, that will save tenants hundreds of pounds and support us feeling secure in our homes. They would lead to large public savings as well, whether through housing benefits or within the temporary housing situation.

However, since the announcement of a permanent system of rent controls in the Housing Bill, landlords and developers have been fighting tooth and nail to water the bill down, for instance claiming that the rent cap led to high rents. But high rents existed far before the rent cap. New rents have increased by 65% since 2010 in Scotland, despite inflation increasing just 47%. Landlords are shying away from the reality: no one increases rents but them. They act like the worst spin doctors of the tobacco, pharmaceutical or energy industries, creating veils of myths and ignorance to protect their profits.

What the last few years showed was that we need stronger regulations. We need rent controls that are tied to the property, not the tenancy so that landlords don’t evict people to increase the rent between tenancies; we need rent controls to put pressure on landlords to fix the half of Scottish homes in a state of disrepair and we need rent controls that are designed to effectively bring down the price of rent.

The Herald:

But it is not just high rents. The government has failed to build social housing to keep up with the need. There are over 243,600 people on social housing waiting lists, many who have been stuck on it for years. Laura, a local member of my Living Rent branch has been stuck in temporary accommodation with her family for a decade. It is clear that the £200m cuts to affordable housing need to be reversed and the government needs to ensure that empty land is prioritised for social and council housing and enables mass-scale stock buyback.

All this is why we desperately need this new government to put the need for all of us to live in an affordable home before the profits of landlords and developers. The government needs to follow through on commitments to introduce greater protections for tenants, such as rent controls, and greater rights and stricter enforcement of the law. MSPs should not buckle to landlord lobbyists who want to see these desperately needed measures scrapped. Declaring a housing emergency showcases the seriousness of the issue and hopefully marks the start of the Scottish government's addressing this as a systemic crisis.