The Scottish National Housing Day is due to take place on 14 September with a focus this year on Sustainable Housing. Usually this would lead to a series of posts and blogs on initiatives associated with reducing energy use and carbon emissions, retrofitting existing homes, and generally contributing to the drive to net zero. That is all laudable and positive, but this year it has been thrown into confusion by the announcement of a rent freeze and ban on evictions affecting both the private and the public sector.

Most social housing providers apply an annual review of their rental levels from the end of March. The rent freeze will not therefore bite until next year, but there is no certainty as to whether the freeze will be continued after then and for how long. This uncertainty impacts on the ability of housing providers to budget which in turn will impact on their ability to plan for new build programmes and for improvement works to their existing homes.

Ultimately if housing providers have less income, they will not be able to afford to deliver the same quality/number of new homes or undertake the same level of improvement works to their existing stock. This will impact on the ability of the sector to deliver the new homes targets and to contribute ultimately to net zero.

Clearly the cost-of-living crisis requires action. However, the imposition of a rent freeze in the context of regulated providers of affordable housing, the vast majority of which are charities and whose main purpose is to support the needs of their tenants and the communities in which they operate, risks impacting the more fundamental need for sustainable housing having a lower environmental impact and running cost.

The lack of certainty as to the length of the rent freeze will also be a concern for funders and investors as it adds another level of uncertainty at a time when there are already many factors, such as interest rates, inflation and cost of construction materials, putting pressure on funding and investment decisions.

COP 26 seems a long time ago, but the key underlying messages from it remain as pressing as ever, and it would be disappointing if we were to lose focus on the need to ensure that the housing we provide, across all sectors, is addressing the need for energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction. Applying a rent freeze may provide a short-term solution to the current cost of living crisis, but it needs to be balanced with other initiatives associated with ensuring that the sustainable housing strategy remains on track. There are solutions open to us, including for example making better use of the long-term surplus value that has been built up in the country's social housing stock to underpin and a more structured approach to financing our future housing needs, but we need to grasp this before it is too late.


Chris Dun


Fiona McLeod

Legal Director