Young people are being promised extra help to find affordable housing in rural areas where second homes have caused serious problems for locals.
The SNP pledge follows claims by Scotland’s finance secretary, Kate Forbes, of a “crisis”, particularly across the north.
The party also outlined plans to give renters more protection from “unreasonable” rent increases by allowing councils to cap the cost.
If re-elected, the SNP also said it would review the Additional Dwelling Supplement – a tax paid on second homes – to make sure it “supports the provision” of homes for people to live in.
Scheme branded ‘unworkable’
However, the SNP’s opponents said the policies should have been in place already.
A “rent pressure zone” scheme is already in place but has been branded “unworkable” by tenants group Living Rent, who want urgent improvements.
Greens were asking for emergency laws to freeze rent for two years last May.
Tories have demanded more action on affordable homes construction. And Labour proposed loans to help people made homes more energy efficient.
On Thursday, the SNP’s Kevin Stewart said: “People’s voices must be heard, and we must protect them from unfair rent increases and opportunistic property developers who are driving people out of their own local area, harming the economy there.
“We must also help young people looking to settle in our rural communities, who are often priced out by second home owners. We will work with local authorities to ensure there is housing for permanent residents, in places where high levels of second home ownership is preventing young people living and working in communities.”
The policies would be in a Housing Bill in the next session of the Scottish Parliament, the SNP said.
Green party candidate Ariane Burgess, standing in the Highlands and Islands region, said: “We welcome the SNP’s decision to move in our direction on housing issues, although it has taken a lot of pressure to force them to do so.
“The details will be key, because their existing rent pressure zone policy does not go far enough.
“In the last parliament the Scottish Greens secured a winter eviction ban throughout the pandemic, and a tenant hardship fund. With more MSPs we can do even more. We need a fair and green recovery from the pandemic, and that starts with making sure everyone has a secure home.”
Rural housing is a key election issue.
Polling of 2,047 adults by Survation for DC Thomson found voters in the north and north-east want action to tackle a growing housing crisis that has left rural communities at risk of “dying”.
One in 10 people surveyed named it in their top three priorities, and that proportion increased to 12% in the sample for Highland and 11% for Moray.