THEY say that home is where the heart is, but far too many people are being priced out of the roof over their heads.

I’ve lived in a lot of different homes and places, and each one of them has had a lasting impact and said something about me. I’ve lived in big cities, from Edinburgh to New York, and I’ve lived in remote and rural villages.

I’ve stayed in good, warm and high-quality accommodation and I’ve stayed in places that were not so nice. As anyone else who has stayed in the not-so-nice places knows, they can take a toll.

Where we live is about more than the bricks and mortar that surround us. It is the neighbourhood, the community, the services and our connections to the world around us. It is crucial to our happiness, our wellbeing and our physical and mental health.

When we talk about housing we are also talking about power, inequality and rights. These are the questions that go right to the core of what kind of society we wantto build.

Over the course of lockdown the line between where we live and where we work became so blurred that, for many of us, our homes became our offices. When I stood for Holyrood in 2021, so much of the campaign was coordinated from my living room. It was a challenging and often horrible time for all of us, but for people in overcrowded, cramped, cold or uncomfortable accommodation it was even worse.

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Things have changed since then, but many of the tensions and stresses that caused so much hardship and housing inequality are as prevalent as ever. Across Scotland, rents have soared while young people in particular have found it impossible to even conceive of buying a home.

Over the last decade, the cost of renting a two-bedroom flat has gone up by a third. There have been even greater jumps in Edinburgh and Glasgow in particular, which have seen hikes of around 50%. Something has to give.

Right from my first days as an MSP, I heard from constituents who told me about the anxiety and instability they were experiencing from a broken housing market.

That’s why, in 2022, I was so delighted when my Green colleague Patrick Harvie used emergency legislation to introduce a rent cap and new protections for tenants that were far ahead of anything else in the UK.

It was the first bill to ever be successfully introduced by a Green minister anywhere in the UK and was a case of Holyrood acting and hundreds of thousands of people instantly feeling the benefit.

Make no mistake, there are people who are living securely in their homes now who would otherwise have been forced out.

The fact that we have extended these protections and introduced a rent cap has provided greater stability and allowed people to plan for themselves and their families.

It has given much-needed respite and relief to the low-paid workers who have had to take on extra shifts to make ends meet and to the parents who are being squeezed and pulled in all directions.

The next step is to make these changes permanent with a robust and fair system of rent controls.

Where there is change there is always a reaction, and I’ve got no doubt this will be the same. All of the landlord lobbyists who have railed against our temporary changes will quickly mobilise and try to paint it as some kind of authoritarian and extreme leap into the unknown.

The reality is that there is nothing unusual about rent controls. They are perfectly normal. I used to live in New York City, which has had forms of rent controls for decades.

They made a daunting and expensive city more manageable. I knew that my rent would go up – but I also knew that it would only be by a small percentage, which made it far easier to plan for.

The peace of mind was invaluable.

Rent controls are vital, but, especially in rural communities like the one I live in, they are only one piece of the puzzle.

The Highland part of the region I represent has been hit with overlapping crises: the escalating cost of living, the rise of short-term lets and a lack of affordable homes and opportunities.

These have combined to create a rural depopulation crisis that threatens to turn once-thriving communities into shells. Similar problems are being faced by island communities.

Too many towns and villages have falling and ageing populations, with lots of young people choosing to move on. When people leave, so do shops and services. That’s why we’ve seen rural schools and local stores closing their doors all across our communities.

This is where community groups are doing the heavy lifting. They know that even four or five houses built in a village can save it, and that is what some of them are doing. But it is a long-term commitment, and it can be gruelling work.

Despite the challenges, there is so much great potential. But if we are to make the changes that are so vital then we will need communities, government and local authorities to work together.

We can choose to have a housing system that empowers people and communities, focuses on human needs rather than the ever-greater saturation of short-term lets and holiday homes, and recognises the rights of tenants as well as the aspiration many have to own their own.

None of this is easy, but if home truly is where the heart is then we will put our hearts into delivering it.