Rental statistics

It would be great to have a full picture of what's going on in the private rental sector; and there's a lot to want to know:

  • Tracking tenure type on properties. The PRS has grown a lot in the last decade or so, but it would be useful to know what proportion of that has come from new builds, what proportion are ex-council flats, etc.
  • The demographics of private renters. Age, income, employment status, nationality, ethnicity, etc. This is important for working out the disproportionate impact poor quality and high rents in the PRS has on particularly immigrants and BME folk.
  • The demographics of landlords. How many properties are owned by "accidental" landlords, compared to buy-to-let and institutional landlords, for example.
  • A real picture on rent. It is clear that there are pockets of 'rental hotspots', but these are often claimed to be only in Aberdeen, and maybe Edinburgh. It is clear, however, that parts of Glasgow (G3, for example) have serious problems of affordability. Reliable statistics on rent levels, broken down by postcode, would help direct policy to solve these issues.
  • More details on the quality of the PRS; fuel poverty, rates of failure of the Scottish Housing Quality Standards (and why they've failed); so that policy can be directed towards solving these issues.

Why the contribution is important

The future of the PRS in Scotland is currently under hot debate, but there is actually very little accurate information to inform that debate. Different, conflicting and incomplete information is doomed to only ever inform partisan, unhelpful debate. What is clear, however, is that for more and more people the PRS is the only option for their housing needs, and so we desperately need answers. A couple examples:

  • Landlords say that increased regulation would stifle new-builds in the PRS. But there is at least some evidence to suggest that that is negligible anyway. That would be something useful to know for sure.
  • There is some suggestion of localised rent controls, based on statistics that suggest that only in a small number of areas is rent a problem. However, the statistics that inform that idea are based on broad market averages. Statistics by Citylets suggest that between the first quarters of '14-15, rents in the G3 postcode of Glasgow went up by more than 13%. In the same period of '13-'14, DD1 postcodes in Dundee went up by as much as 17%. Knowing exactly what's actually going on, at that level of detail, would have profound consequences for policy solutions.
  • It is vital, however, that changes to the PRS do not have a detrimental effect on the market - but without knowing who makes up that market, it's difficult to direct policy solutions in that way.
  • We also, of course, need to put tenants' needs at the heart of changes; but who are these tenants? What is affordable for them? Why are BME people almost 5 times more likely to live in the PRS in Scotland than white people?
  • Quality in the PRS is not simply a housing question. There is a clear and well-established link between damp, mould, drafts and general disrepair on people's health; and that has an astronomic social (and financial!) cost to the Scottish NHS. In order to fix it, we need to know what's going on.

And generally, more data is more fun :)

by gordonmaloney on July 07, 2015 at 05:23PM

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