Winds of change: The legacy of Storm Ciara and Dennis

by Dewi John

The sky above us is grey… It is that time of year yet again, storm season, which for many people across Wales can only mean one thing… flooding. This will mean sleepless nights for hundreds of households across Wales – who worry about their homes every time it rains, thinking back to the memory of what happened this month two years ago. February 2020 brought with it record levels of flooding across Wales. Our communities are still dealing with the scars of these storms.

Shelter Cymru believes we must tackle our un-readiness to deal with the symptoms of climate change, especially as the Deputy Climate Change Minister warns that “the consequences of not acting will be profound for Wales”. Climate change will see sea levels rise by at least 1.3 – 2.6 feet by 2100. If we do not act now to mitigate the impacts of flooding and extreme weather events, we will further exacerbate existing inequalities, which will result in disruption to our infrastructure and will  cause some of our coastal communities to  disappear forever by 2050.

Together with our partners Tai Pawb and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, we are campaigning to enshrine the right to adequate housing into Welsh law. We’re pleased that the recent Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru includes a commitment to a White Paper to explore such a right. A right to adequate housing can help us to combat both the impacts of climate change but also catalyse our journey to achieving net zero.

A right to adequate housing will mean investment in flood defences for parts of Wales which are more susceptible to flooding, bringing a cost/benefit ratio of more than 5:1. It will help spur on the current Welsh Government’s ambitious housebuilding commitments, and, in the uncertain future, it will hardwire a commitment to improving people’s homes –  ensuring that good quality, greener homes are front and centre of the delivery agenda as well as defending and decarbonising our existing homes across Wales.

We welcome the commitment within the Cooperation Agreement to commission an independent review of the Section 19 reports produced into extreme flooding in Wales in the winter of 2020 and 2021, with the commitment to act on the recommendations made. We also welcome the commitment to deliver an increased investment into flood and coastal erosion risk management and mitigation over the course of this Senedd term to minimise the likelihood of flooding of homes by 2050.  We must not however, underestimate the scale of the challenge we face and its importance. Realising a right to adequate housing will require agile and deliberate collaboration across the layers of governance. This however, is the right thing to do, to ensure that the painful lessons of two years ago are repeated as infrequently as possible in the future.

Shelter Cymru believes that home is everything and that everyone deserves a good home. But unless our current and new homes can withstand the pressures of extreme weather events, our shared housing emergency will only become further entrenched by climate change.

There’s no place like home: dealing with LGBTQ+ discrimination within the housing sector

As we mark LGBTQ+ History Month, it is important that we reflect on the past and take note of the progress that has been made, but it is equally important to look towards the future and learn from our shared past to create a more equal Wales. Recent surveys have consistently shown that the Welsh public supports LGBTQ+ equality and it is imperative that we deliver on this goal.  A 2019 BBC Wales report showed that 56% of the population felt very comfortable about an adult being in a same-sex relationship, whilst only 8% felt not comfortable at all. At Shelter Cymru we welcome these statistics and the recently published Welsh Government LGBTQ+ action plan.

A recent story from BBC London has shone a spotlight on the issue of LGBTQ+ discrimination within the housing sector, which is still a problem in 2022, with a gay couple being refused a house viewing and purchase. It is important that we take notice and stand together against prejudice and discrimination. We know that this issue isn’t just limited to LGBTQ+ people purchasing properties but also trying to access private rental properties. Our soon-to-be-released report based on a survey of private landlords in Wales shows that although the vast majority of landlords are accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, a minority of prejudiced attitudes still persists. Although over 90% of landlords said they would let a trans person, 4% of landlords said that they would not rent to someone who is transgender on the basis of old stereotypes directed at the LGBTQ+ community such as promiscuity, with one landlord saying “with regular different partners you would have your property trashed.”

We know from our research that LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately at risk of homelessness due to familial rejection. The same report showed that this disproportionate risk is even greater among transgender people due to family rejection, relationship breakdown and economic precariousness. To make matters worse there is a mental health crisis within the LGBTQ+ community, with an increased risk of mental illness and an increased risk of suicide as a result of bullying and discrimination. Clearly more needs to be to encourage and facilitate joint working between public organisations to tackle the scourge of hate crimes in Wales. A recent Vice report highlights the true extent of what discrimination can lead to: homophobic hate crimes have risen by 210% over the past six years in the UK, whilst transphobic hate crime has risen by 332%. To help tackle the higher risk of mental illness and suicide within the LGBTQ+ community, we must all work together to end the scourge of violence and discrimination, otherwise we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our shared past.