Lothians worst hit by '˜devastating impact' of squeeze on rent costs

Private rents in property hotspots such as Edinburgh have become 'unaffordable' for many Scots, new research has found.

The Scottish Government blames welfare cuts for the “devastating” impact on Scots who rent their homes, with many being pushed into “crisis and debt” by the changes.

Almost half a million Scottish households receive some form of financial support for their housing.

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The local housing allowance (LHA) is meant to ensure that Scots on benefits could afford the cheapest 30 per cent of local properties.

The price of rents in the Lothians has become 'unaffordable' for many Scots, new research has found.
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But the Scottish Government’s latest Annual Report on Welfare Reform, which focuses on housing, shows that fewer than 5 per cent of 1 bedroom private rented properties in the Lothians would be available.

This would mean tenants would have to find an extra £24 a week on average.

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For two-bedroom properties, fewer than 10 per cent are available leaving tenants with a £33 cash discrepancy.

The pressure in Edinburgh outstrips all other areas of the country. Greater Glasgow, the next most expensive area, sees tenants facing a £11.50 shortfall for the cheapest 30 per cent of one-bedroom places.

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Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “It is clear that UK government welfare cuts are having a devastating impact, with money taken from the pockets of people across the country, pushing them into crisis and debt.”

He added: “This report builds on previously published evidence of the undue pressure on people that UK government changes to our welfare system are causing, including housing.

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“We want to ensure everyone has access to a safe, warm place to call home – as part of that, the UK government must urgently change course.”

The number of people falling behind into arrears is also up, according to the report. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of social housing tenants in East Lothian claiming Universal Credit were behind on their rent, compared with 30 per cent of all tenants in the region.

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Graeme Brown, of Shelter Scotland, said: “Scotland faces a major crisis with housing-related poverty – where those on the lowest incomes are spending an increasingly higher percentage of their earnings on housing costs like rent and utility bills and they often need help to make ends meet.”

A UK government spokesman insisted that under Universal Credit claimants can receive support through 100 per cent advance payments, including housing costs, from day one. Landlords can apply to have rent paid directly to them if tenants are in arrears.

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Green housing spokesperson Cllr Susan Rae said: “This is a devastating report for renters in Edinburgh and the wider city region. In effect the DWP are saying to people on lower incomes ‘no, there are no council or housing association homes available, so you’ll have to find somewhere to rent privately, but only in the bottom third of the market. And then if you find that we’ll expect you to top up rent by £24-34 a week because we have frozen payments.’

“Edinburgh is fast becoming a no-go zone for people on lower incomes. We need urgent action in three ways: first to provide more social housing; second to target rip-off private rents; and thirdly to challenge the UK Government over its corrosive assault on welfare.”