SCOTTISH cities should join global calls to regulate against property owners who see housing as a commodity rather than a human right, according to the director of a film which has its Scottish premier this week.

Push, a new documentary from award-winning director Fredrik Gertten, tells the story of skyrocketing housing prices in cities around the world, which combined with stagnating incomes is pushing people out of urban centres.

However this is not gentrification argues Gertten, but the rise of a new kind of faceless landlord driven by global finance and hedge fund ownership.

The film is screening at Edinburgh's Film House on Thursday and the CCA in Glasgow on Friday as part of the Take One Action film festival. It follows Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, as she travels the globe trying to understand who’s being pushed out of the city and why. 

Though the film is set in New York, London, Barcelona, Seoul and Valparaiso. Gertten argues it is relevant to every city, including Scottish ones.

Last year Shelter Scotland warned that Edinburgh was facing a housing crisis due to a combination of long-term underinvestment in affordable housing, an acute shortage of suitable temporary accommodation for homeless people, and the growth of short-term lets such as Airbnb.

The charity claimed the city centre could become an inaccessible as London, if action was not taken. Some residents in the city’s Old Town have claimed that they have been pushed out by new developments, leading to a “disneyfication” of the tourist-dominated area.

Gertten told the Sunday National that interest in the film was “overwhelming”. “The financial crisis of 2008 totally changed housing from being a national concern to a global one,” he said. “We have a new global landlord, and it’s quite often a hedge fund. Our homes are now a product.

“This is not only about the poorest people – though we know they are pushed out – but it’s also about the enormous stress that working families are under, or even young professionals who can’t afford to buy a home any more in many places. Even the people who used to think they were safe are not anymore.

“When there is new condo shooting up places changes – it’s the coffee shop and the news stand replaced by chains. The whole idea of the local economy is over. A lot of money is being taken straight out of our cities. We are moving more and more toward the idea of the airport city.”

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He said he hoped the film would encourage Scottish cities to join up to the Shift – a network set up by Farha which aims to connect cities fighting back against the commodification of housing.

“When people see this film they will see this is also happening in their own city,” he said.

“The Shift network is something the Scottish cities could join and then they can learn from other cities across the world and that will help them develop housing policy that is based on human rights.

“I really hope that this film will help people who are under pressure to see the pattern and see that it is not their fault that they can’t pay the rent.

“And I hope it makes it easier for people to put pressure on their politicians because ultimately this is about legislation and regulation.”

Regulation in other cities across the world has included rent caps, taxation on empty properties and court orders allowing authorities to take over empty flats owned by banks.

Rhiannon Sims, research and policy officer at Oxfam Scotland, who will be speaking at the screening, said that while the film provided a global perspective, it was hugely relevant to Scotland. “This isn’t just about housing, it is about housing wealth inequality,” she added, calling for Scotland to enact fairer taxation policies on wealth.

“Globally, people are deprived of homes because of the increasing commoditization of housing. Wealth is locked into property which, if properly taxed, could be used to pay for essential public services that provide a lifeline for people living in poverty.”

Gordon MacRae, head of communications and policy for Shelter Scotland, said: “Scotland is in the grip of a housing emergency and this film is a timely reminder that leaving crucial services like housing up to the private market will never ensure everyone’s needs are met.

“We urgently need to build significant numbers of new social homes. Shelter Scotland has welcomed the Scottish Government’s current social housebuilding programme, the biggest since the 1970s, but this should just be the beginning of an ongoing plan to deliver the housing the country needs now and in the future.”

Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman, who has campaigned for better regulation on Edinburgh holiday lets including Airbnb, added: “I am looking forward to seeing this film.

“In economics and politics we talk about ‘housing stock’ and ‘house prices’ more often than we talk about homes, which is to focus on the commodity instead of the person.

“Having a warm and secure home is a right. Whether it is addressing issues with empty houses or short-term lets, too often the Government has stood in the way of progress in recognising the social function of housing and land.”