Edinburgh should introduce strict rent controls as part of an effort to tackle poverty and serious financial difficulty across the city.
That’s according to Dr Jim McCormick, chairman of an organisation called the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, which was set up towards the end of last year.
Dr McCormick cites high housing costs as being a very significant hindrance to initiatives focussed on reducing poverty in the Scottish capital.
Individuals and families across Scotland struggle to cover their housing costs but the average monthly rent in Edinburgh is £1,087 as compared to a national average of £799.
A major cause for concern being highlighted by campaigners is that around 22 per cent of children in Edinburgh are believed to be living in poverty, with some parts of the city experiencing rates of child poverty as high as 35 per cent.
Alongside issues linked to housing costs, the freeze on benefits and reductions to tax credits of recent years are viewed as notable contributors to the financial difficulties being experienced by large numbers of people in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland.
“Here and now, the single biggest challenge for Edinburgh is housing costs,” said Dr McCormick in conversation with The Scotsman.
“The pathway to poverty reduction in Edinburgh has a lot to do with getting control of rents in the private rented sector,” he said.
The city council in Edinburgh is reported to be lobbying the Scottish government to allow for the creation of zones in which rent increases can be capped.
Other methods of providing support and protections for people in precarious housing situations are also being considered and pursued by the city council.
Councillor Kate Campbell told the Scotsman: “People are struggling because they simply can’t afford their rent. This is evidenced by the large number of people presenting as homeless coming from the private rented sector.”
Research published by the homelessness charity Shelter in January revealed that the number of people in Scotland who struggle to pay either their rent or their mortgage each month increased by nearly a third over the past two years.
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The Scottish government has committed to spending £64 million next year to help people in all parts of the country reduce their energy bills.
Ministers of the UK government have committed to phasing out the £20 uplift in the regular payments made via the Universal Credit system.
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