Election Manifesto 2016

The case for housing
Housing is a fundamental human need. The provision of suitable, affordable homes can save public money and contribute to the health and wellbeing of future generations. Yet Government spending on housing is less than 2.5% of the budget – a drop in the ocean compared with other areas.

  • The people of Wales desperately need more affordable homes to be built. The Welsh Government should set an ambitious affordable homes target that meets this identified need, supported by the expansion of capital grants and innovative finance models.
  • More land needs to be made available for building. The Welsh Government should set an example to other public authorities by prioritising the release of public land for affordable housebuilding. Taxation should be used more intelligently to incentivise the release of land – a Land Valuation Tax would bring massive benefits to the people of Wales.
  • To ensure that housing has a high priority, the Welsh Government should allocate housing its own minister with a dedicated portfolio.
  • Good quality, secure housing makes people healthier and happier. The tremendous preventative value of housing needs to be recognised. Welsh Government should work on creating closer links and an equal footing between housing and health, reinforcing better joint working through the use of shared budgets to deliver specific flagship projects.

An end to homelessness
Homelessness carries a massive cost in both human and financial terms. With the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, the Welsh Government has begun a journey towards a better system that puts people first. But we mustn’t think that the task is done – we still have a long way to go before homelessness is a thing of the past.

  • An end to homelessness is possible: it requires a shift of resources away from administration and towards the frontline. The Welsh Government should discard the onerous and expensive homelessness tests that exclude people from the services they need, and concentrate resources on helping people.
  • It is wrong that a nation with a statutory commitment to the rights of the child continues to allow homeless 16 and 17 year olds to be housed alone in unsupported bed and breakfast accommodation. These vulnerable children are not even identified separately in official statistics. The Government should ban independent 16 and 17 year olds from being housed in B&Bs.
  • We need to ensure that social housing is still capable of meeting the needs of people in poverty. Nobody should be deemed too poor for social housing. The Welsh Government should review the funding and accountability of social housing in Wales, ensuring that social landlords are investing in support-based alternatives to eviction.
  • The spare room subsidy continues to wreck people’s lives. The Welsh Government could do more to support the tens of thousands affected. Discretionary Housing Payments should be boosted so that nobody has to pay the subsidy in Wales until they move home. Social landlords are expanding their provision of shared accommodation: Welsh Government should regulate to ensure that conversions are carried out to a good standard. Protection of Supporting People funding is also vital to ensure that tenants have the support they need to avoid eviction.

Make renting right
A million people rent their homes in Wales. The number of homes rented privately has doubled in the last ten years. The profile of private tenants has changed dramatically, including many more families as well as vulnerable people. The sector is being relied upon as a long-term housing option for increasing numbers of people, and yet there are some significant and widespread problems including poor conditions, lack of security, and lack of redress.

Welsh Government has begun to address some of these problems but more needs to be done.

  • New laws have been introduced to improve conditions but this can only be achieved if there are stronger rights for tenants. Private renters deserve the security of knowing they can’t be evicted on the whim of the landlord, if they are obeying the terms of their tenancy agreement. The Welsh Government should create secure tenancies as the default for the private rented sector, with predictable rent rises in line with inflation.
  • Two in five privately rented homes have at least one serious health hazard. Local authorities don’t have the resources to carry out enough enforcement. The Welsh Government should boost and protect environmental health budgets by providing additional ring-fenced funding. Five-yearly electrical safety testing and mandatory carbon monoxide detectors should be introduced. Better access to justice is also vital: the Government should establish a specialist housing tribunal to settle disputes between tenants and landlords.
  • Letting agents fees are often extortionate and levied against both tenant and landlord for the same services. Fees are business costs: the Welsh Government should ban lettings agent fees to tenants, ensuring that costs are borne by the individual profiting.
  • Private renters have had very little input into legislation planned by Welsh Government so far. More needs to be done to ensure their voices are heard. The Welsh Government should consult private renters directly on all major policy interventions, and should support the development of a Welsh private tenant association.

For more information contact Jennie Bibbings, Campaigns Manager jennieb@sheltercymru.org.uk or 02920 556903.

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