UN housing expert Raquel Rolnik expresses concern about private landlords

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By Lynn Malone

The UN expert flown in to assess the damage of the Bedroom Tax fears it could force vulnerable Scots into the grip of unscrupulous private landlords because of the shortage of one bedroom flats.

Speaking exclusively to NewsnetScotland before flying to Ireland, Rachel Rolnik took time out to tell us why she is here and voice her concerns that the Con-Dem tax is affecting people’s human rights.

“The once public housing stock was privatised under the right to buy and some of this stock is now in a very bad condition. If there are no available one bedroom flats in social housing then it will be moved out to the private market.

“Private renting is increasing in Scotland and the conditions of the private rent which is a totally unregulated market means people may find themselves in worse conditions than in social housing.” She said.

Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) is trying to buy back homes because of the government’s hated Bedroom Tax.

It was widely reported earlier this year that GHA, the 43,000-home landlord, would spend £16m on buying back one and two-bedroom flats on the open market.

The Brazilian architect and urban planner and UN’s Special Rapporteur who is a world leader on housing said: “My mission is to assess the housing situation of the country and the right to adequate housing as it defined by international legislation – the UK has signed and ratified this.

“The concept in terms of right to adequate housing is progressive realisation – where you always go forward, you never go backwards; you go forward!” She said.

The housing specialist claims not enough assessment has been carried out on the impact of the bedroom tax and it’s affects on the vulnerable and disabled.

She said: “It is affecting vulnerable groups. I have encountered some situations and testimonies coming from people with disabilities and learning difficulties.”

Ms Rolnik clarified article 25 for readers, which says housing is part of “the right to a standard of living adequate for health and wellbeing” and she points out the core components include “affordability” – which should not compromise basic needs such as food and health.

“I worry that if they want to stay where they are then people will have to put more money into the rent and then they will get less housing benefit and will have less money to eat.”

Another core component is “accessibility” which means all disadvantaged groups should be given priority to adequate housing. The UN expert met with disabled people and organisations that work with them and she is keen that they are able to live with dignity.

She said: “It is a great concern because this is a very vulnerable group and for a disabled person and a person with learning difficulties and mental illness, it’s important they are able to have an independent living and a home which is adapted to their needs, but also a home which has a network around it which can protect them and be there on the occasions that the people need. They must have the support to live with dignity.”

Ms. Rolnik will share her preliminary findings and recommendations at a press conference next Wednesday at the UN in London.