Scotland's largest landlord membership organisation yesterday launched a fierce attack on the SNP and Greens, accusing them of putting political rhetoric ahead of achieving real results in solving the housing crisis north of the border.

John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords, was commenting on controversial new legislation which would see a freeze on the cost of rented housing and also a moratorium on evictions.

The proposals announced on Monday night are for an initial six months, but could be extended for another 12 months.

The protection-of-tenants bill is currently being fast-tracked through the Holyrood scrutiny process.

Mr Blackwood accused the two parties running the Scottish Government of neglecting the housing sector, leaving it to crumble.

He went on: "Those needing a home shout for help, but no-one answers. Big promises of improvements never materialise. All the while, costs rise unchecked.

Invest in more housing

"Contrast that with the overwhelming majority of landlords in Scotland whose businesses want to invest in more housing, engage closely with tenants, improve and upgrade properties and keep rent levels affordable in the interests of both tenants and landlords."

The CEO said that, by approaching this problem in a political way rather than as a serious policy discussion, the SNP and Greens had already caused investment to halt, with fewer homes available and people struggling to find somewhere to live.

He added: "That is irresponsible whichever way you look at it.

"More than that, the policy is unravelling now it has hit the real world. The First Minister grandly announced there would be no more evictions at all but that has, thankfully, already been eroded to provide at least some basic provisions to allow landlords to protect communities from anti-social or criminal behaviour

"The rent freeze that was supposed to be immediate is shown not to be quite as it appeared. The scope of the bill is muddled, the processes unclear.

"We know the SNP and Greens will ram this bill through, but that will only result in poor law. We can already see it is full of holes and may well be open to legal challenge, particularly around protection of private property and ownership.

Cheap political headlines

"And for what? Cheap political headlines at the expense of actual solutions. Solutions that could have increased investment and the supply of housing while keeping rent levels affordable. The consequences of that lie firmly at the door of the SNP and Greens and their irresponsible approach to a housing crisis they have created."

The Telegraph reports that Mr Blackwood’s outspoken intervention was echoed by Scottish Land & Estates, representing the country's sporting estates and land managers, which warned the legislation was "a watershed moment that will damage the provision of housing for years to come".

Stephen Young, the industry body's head of policy, said it was also consulting its legal advisers on whether the bill was "compliant with other legislation".

It is understood he was referring to the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone "is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions".

Patrick Harvie, the Tenants' Right Minister and one of two Greens in the Scottish Government, insisted the legislation "strikes the right balance" and would not breach landlords' rights.

But Scotland's universities also warned any freeze that lasts longer than six months could make their student housing "financially unviable, put jobs at risk and further reduce supply".

Little to increase incomes

The BBC says Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Miles Briggs said the government's plan would do little to increase the incomes of most social or private tenants.

He also accused the coalition of going after a "good headline" and warned the bill would have a serious impact on the delivery of new homes.

Mr Briggs added: "We already have a record number of people living in temporary accommodation in Scotland, and this bill has the potential to supercharge the current housing crisis."

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesman Willie Rennie said including the social housing sector in the bill risked undermining housing associations, councils and charities.

He added: "Those homes are already subject to rent controls, so I don't think it would be right to impose another set of controls with a freeze."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) warned the legislation would only worsen the "chronic undersupply" of rental housing across both public, private and student accommodation.

SPF director David Melhuish added that housing providers were not responsible for the cost-of -iving crisis but had been "singled out" by the Scottish Government's proposals.

He added: "New housing must become the policy priority - not blunt instruments singling out landlords, many of whom work hard to support their tenants."

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