Scotland has a housing crisis. Over 130,000 people are currently homeless or on housing waiting lists, emphasising the need for a sustained housebuilding programme.

Tenants, particularly in the private sector, know costs did not just start escalating during the pandemic or the current cost of living crisis. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate around a third of Scotland’s private renters were already living in poverty last year.

Meanwhile, Scottish Government statistics show between 2010 and 2021, average monthly rents for a private two-bedroom property increased 25 per cent. In Ayrshire council areas, they rose nearly seven per cent between 2020 and 2021 alone.

This has left tenants, whose wages are unlikely to have risen in real terms over that period, paying anywhere from a quarter to over half of their income on rent, leaving little disposable income for anything but essentials.

And whilst mortgage holders were rightly supported with “payment holidays” during the pandemic, tenants received no such support despite invariably being worse off. Rising interest rates are also obviously a real concern now for home owners.

Given this context, it explains why the Scottish Government has belatedly introduced an emergency rent freeze for tenants under sustained pressure from Scottish Labour and the hard work of tenants union Living Rent.

The Cost of Living (Protection of Tenants) Bill stipulates landlords cannot raise rents from 6 September until 31 March, and there is an option to extend this further.

These measures support private and social tenants and those in student accommodation, and include a six month moratorium on evictions.

However, the freeze is only temporary. The Scottish Government claims it does not expect to introduce a more permanent rent controls scheme – allowing local authorities to cap rents and regulate the sector over the long term – until as late as 2025.

Tenants cannot wait that long, especially at a time when the most right wing Tory government in decades is threatening to slash benefits and reduce workers’ rights.

Opponents, particularly Conservative MSPs, claim rent controls simply reduce supply. But unless landlords leave their properties empty en-masse, this is patently untrue.

Similarly, whilst new housing is needed, simply zoning to build more private properties without addressing issues around ownership and regulation just creates more assets for developers to “landbank” or speculate on.

In fact, an estimated 112,300 properties in Scotland are unoccupied at any one time, nearly 30,000 of which have been empty for over a year.

It is why social housing and effective regulation must happen in tandem over the years to come.

In the post-war period, when the UK last had effective rent controls, millions of council homes were built and millions more could afford their own homes as wages rose and mortgage availability expanded.

It is time we recognised a shift is overdue and shifted the balance towards those who need most support.