Students’ housing worries during Covid-19

By Amanda Harris

These are deeply unsettling times for many, none more so than the thousands of students who attend universities and higher education establishments across Wales.

Not only have students been faced with huge disruption to their courses and exams, with universities closing and learning going online, but many are experiencing serious anxieties  and concerns over their housing situation, especially since the Welsh Government Stay at Home guidance has been in place.

At Shelter Cymru we’ve seen a huge increase in demand on our advice services from students. In fact the number of students accessing our telephone advice service has increased nearly fourfold compared with this time last year.

Queries range from legal liability to pay rent when absent from their student accommodation (many students having returned home over the Easter holidays and not returned due to the lockdown), to whether they should be allowing their private landlords in to their property to carry out urgent repairs whilst they are having to self-isolate.

Many students who were relying on zero-hour contracts to help fund their studies and pay their rent are now finding themselves in financial hardship, and unable to fall back on support from families who themselves are struggling to make ends meet. Rent arrears, spiralling debt and the threat of eviction are suddenly very real concerns.

So what is being done to help protect students and alleviate some of these worries?

Temporary emergency measures have been introduced to protect the security of many private tenants throughout the UK during the pandemic – tenants are currently entitled to three months’ notice before eviction (rather than two) and court proceedings for eviction have been postponed until the end of June.

The Welsh Government has issued comprehensive support for tenants setting out the various financial and housing support available for tenants in the private sector in Wales, together with guidance for landlord and agents on how to best manage their tenancies during the pandemic.

Universities are being encouraged by Welsh Government ministers to support their students by helping them access university hardship funds and allowing them to release themselves from tenancies of university owned accommodation which they are not currently occupying.

Financial help through benefits such as universal credit and discretionary housing payments are  not always available to students but those  in financial difficulty are advised to check Entitledto to see what they can claim and, in Wales, to consider applying to the Discretionary Assistance Fund for an emergency payment to cover essential costs. Help from foodbanks and with paying council tax is also available.

The fact remains however that many students in Wales are at the mercy of their private landlords and, although they are advised to request rent reductions if they are struggling to pay, or to try and negotiate a surrender of their tenancies, unless there is a break clause in their tenancy agreement a private landlord may well be within their rights to refuse.

The inevitable outcome is increasing debt and arrears and, once the restrictions on eviction are lifted, the very real possibility of court proceedings and potentially homelessness.

We have worked hard to adapt our services so as to ensure that expert housing advice remains available to all who need it – whether that be online, by webchat or by phone. We have produced dedicated Covid19 related advice for young people and are constantly monitoring new developments to help frame our campaigning and policy work.

The realisation is however that we are currently at the tip of the iceberg of problems and, as the lockdown eases and the emergency measures and financial support that has been available gradually slip away, the problems and uncertainties students currently face will stay around for a very long time to come.

Amanda Harris is Advice Online Manager at Shelter Cymru

Blog: Homelessness after lockdown: priority need for all?

Across Wales there are more than 500 homeless people in emergency accommodation due to the pandemic. Local agencies have worked incredibly hard to get people into safe places, whether that’s hotels, B&Bs, caravan parks, previously unlet social housing, even into permanent homes.

Finding accommodation for so many people so quickly is a massive credit to homelessness services and their partners. All the stops were pulled out to ensure that as many homeless people as possible could stay safe.

However a huge question – to which there was no guidance until yesterday – is where people are meant to go when lockdown is over.

Nobody, least of all councils, wants to see hundreds of people evicted to the streets. But finding accommodation and support for that many is a challenge so huge, it even dwarfs what’s been achieved so far.

One important part of the question is what people’s legal status should be. Are they owed a homelessness duty under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, or are they just being unofficially accommodated as a mark of goodwill? Do people have any rights in this situation?

That question was at least partly answered by the Welsh Government yesterday. New statutory guidance stated that in the government’s view, it is ‘almost inevitable’ that a person who is homeless during Covid should meet the test for priority need, and therefore have the right to a permanent home once the outbreak is over.

Almost inevitable – but not completely inevitable. The guidance could have been more clear-cut in several ways. However the point being made here is not just technical, but ethical.

Last year more than 1,600 homeless people across Wales were told they must remain homeless, because the council wasn’t able to help them find a home and their circumstances meant they didn’t have a priority need.

In these bizarre and dangerous times, the Welsh Government has set an expectation that ordinary limits to homelessness assistance don’t apply. Covid has brought so much pain to so many, but it has also brought the chance to do things differently.

We have a unique opportunity before us. We can erase homelessness now and significantly reduce it in future. We can work towards a future where priority need is no longer a barrier to help, certainly for people sleeping rough and ideally for all.

One thing is clear though: council homelessness services can’t do it alone.

Despite the guidance there are plenty of legal ‘get out clauses’ available to councils: intentional homelessness, failure to cooperate, no change of circumstances, could all be used as reasons not to owe someone a duty.

However we know councils don’t want to go down that route. Everyone agrees that the right thing to do is to find people homes, but to make that happen is going to take resources and unprecedented levels of support from local partners.

Social landlords will need to dig deep into their social purpose and be less risk averse than many are used to. Support will need to be provided in new ways, as many people’s support needs have changed during lockdown.

There’s a big task ahead and we all have to pull together.

Blog: Preventing evictions in Wales during lockdown

At Shelter Cymru we share the disappointment of our sister organisation about the UK Government’s over-hyped measures to prevent evictions during the coronavirus outbreak. Rather than banning all evictions as promised, the emergency legislation will simply extend the current notice period for a section 21 eviction from two months to three.

Over the last week Shelter Cymru has advised many private renters seeking help after being handed a section 21 notice to quit.

There is a wave of evictions taking place directly due to the outbreak. However the UK Government’s legislation isn’t backdated, so none of these people will be helped.

It doesn’t help people whose accommodation is linked to their employment – vital for the many workers currently being laid off due to holiday parks shutting.

One glimmer of hope is that the legislation allows Wales to put in place a longer notice period of up to six months. We’re hopeful that the Welsh Government will take this step and give tenants some much-needed breathing space. The Scottish Government is currently taking steps to introduce a similar notice period.

We also hope that all housing possession court duty listings will be suspended, ending the current postcode lottery due to some courts being open, some closed, and some hearing oral evidence by telephone only.

The last thing we want to see is people at their wits’ end because they need to go house-hunting or to raise money and they can’t because of the lockdown. Sadly this is the reality for many people currently contacting our advisors.

In the meantime there are other steps that can be taken to help people.

Local authorities should follow the example of Torfaen and Monmouthshire: the two councils announced an automatic extension until October for everyone currently receiving Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs).

DHPs are a vital source of help to keep people in their home, and we’ll be asking the UK Government to make them more flexible so that anyone can apply, not just people receiving housing benefits.

We also need to ensure tenants are made aware that if they are handed a notice to quit, they don’t have to move out by the expiry date.

Not enough tenants understand their rights. Even though there’s a risk of court costs, during lockdown it is vital that people stay safe even if that means remaining in the home past the expiry date on the notice.

We all have a shared responsibility to ensure people seek advice on their rights. If you are in a position to help, please share our advice page. The wider we can spread this message, the better chance we have of preventing a wave of homelessness in three months’ time.

BLOG: Letting fees in Wales: did the Welsh Government go far enough?

 

This week the Senedd passed regulations that mean private renters will be well protected from some types of letting fee – and potentially wide open to being hit by other fees.

In fact the regulations leave tenants in Wales more exposed to these fees than tenants in England.

The issue is ‘default fees’, which tenants are charged by agents and landlords for perceived breaches of tenancy. Default fees have been a huge focus for us throughout our campaigning to get letting fees banned.

The worst type of default fee, that brings us the most casework, is late payment fees. These can easily spiral into the hundreds of pounds and it’s often people on low incomes or who are vulnerable who get hit the hardest.

Thankfully, late payment fees have been capped by the regulations and in future will be charged at a strictly limited rate. The regulations also cap the amount that can be charged for replacing a set of keys, a lock or a security device.

All good so far. However – and this is where the problem lies – the regulations are silent on every other type of default fee. This means that agents and landlords are able to charge an unprescribed sum for any other perceived breach of tenancy.

It leaves agents and landlords free to start adding unrestricted and arbitrary fees into tenancy contracts for any potential breach, as long as it’s not for late payment of rent, lost keys or damaged locks.

This is not lawful in England.

‘Landlords and agents cannot write terms into your tenancy agreement that require a payment as a penalty should you fail to perform an obligation,’ says the UK Government’s guidance to tenants in England. ‘For example, any clause that says “if you fail to do x then you must pay y”, even if the amount is not specified, is likely to be prohibited.’

In England, agents or landlords who want to claim damages for tenancy breaches can do so via the court, so that the claim can be based on evidence. This is currently the case in Wales, but when the regulations come into effect on 28 April 2020 agents can bypass the court as long as they have included such charges in the contract.

It’s worth remembering that from next year in Wales, tenancy contracts will look very different. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act will mean that contracts become a comprehensive, detailed description of rights and responsibilities. It means we could end up with tenants being charged for:

  • Falling into arrears with council tax
  • Falling into arrears with energy bills, or voluntarily self-disconnecting
  • Failing to allow entry to a landlord or agent.

A tenant may be unable to cut the lawn due to a serious health issue; they may be justified in refusing entry to an agent or landlord who is harassing them; they may be understandably trying to manage energy costs by voluntarily self-disconnecting from time to time.

The decision by Welsh Government not to prescribe limits for any other default fee potentially opens up a new area of bad practice for some unscrupulous agents to rip off tenants. Because of limited public funding for this type of work, it’s going to be hard for tenants to dispute arbitrary and potentially unfair default charges.

The Welsh Government has committed to monitor the situation and revisit the regulations if it turns out bad practice is occurring. We will be keeping a close eye on how this is affecting people.

If you come across examples of tenants being charged rip-off fees, please get in touch with the Campaigns Team and let us know.

 

Legal: How intentional homelessness is changing in Wales

 

A recent Supreme Court case put the intentional homelessness test back in the spotlight, raising questions about how fair the test is and whether, for Wales, it should have any place at all in our homelessness system.

The case concerned a woman known as Ms Samuels and her four children who, having been evicted, approached Birmingham Council for assistance. The family was found to be intentionally homeless, as the reason for the eviction was rent arrears.

The arrears were due to a shortfall in her housing benefit of £151 per month. Ms Samuels and her children were wholly dependent on benefits. She argued that she couldn’t afford the shortfall.

But the local authority decided that she should be covering the shortfall with her non-housing benefit income. At Court of Appeal the judge agreed with the local authority. Ms Samuels appealed that decision and the matter eventually came to the Supreme Court.

Britain’s highest court found that the council’s approach had been unlawful. Subsistence benefits are not designed to allow a surplus to be spent on rent or other expenses. As he delivered the judgment Lord Carnwath said, ‘I find it hard to see on what basis the finding of intentional homelessness could be properly upheld.’

Although this is an English case, it is applicable in Wales. This decision is significant because not only did the Supreme Court assert that expenses at or below subsistence benefit income level are reasonable, it also ensures a sharper focus on the individual and the needs of families and children.

Local authorities will need to ensure that they apply the principles in this case. Housing advisers will need to consider any decisions carefully to ensure the correct principles have been applied. A failure to do so could lead to further challenge.

In Wales, the Housing (Wales) Act has championed the person-centred approach and put prevention at the heart of the legislation. The guidance to the Act says local authorities should ensure that households can afford the housing costs without being deprived of basic essentials such as food and utilities.

While this is welcome, further steps need to be taken to consolidate this approach. The Samuels case demonstrates that finding a family intentionally homeless in these circumstances is an archaic approach.

In 2014 the Welsh Government set a target of 2019 to end intentional homelessness for households with dependent children. The precise date for this target hasn’t yet been set.

Official figures show that intentionality is being used less and less often: in fact, last year only three authorities were responsible for the majority of decisions, with the rest using it fairly rarely.

Even so, we know from our casework that intentionality is still being used against homeless households who should have a priority need for accommodation.

We’re looking forward to the Welsh Government setting a firm date for ending intentionality for households with children and, one day, ending it completely.

A final important point on the Samuels case: it took a lengthy battle of three years for Ms Samuels to get her case to the Supreme Court. This will not be unfamiliar to anyone undertaking legal aid work.

Following the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) it has become increasingly difficult to obtain funding. This has in turn led to a massive reduction in firms who specialise in housing law.

Even if an individual can access advice, it’s an uphill struggle to obtain funding as there is a constant questioning and challenging by the Legal Aid Agency in what appears to be any attempt to defeat an application for funding.

This probably explains why legal aid applications have fallen by 34% since 2013, coupled of course by advice deserts. There is no point in having the right to challenge adverse decisions if a person cannot also secure adequate funding and access specialist advice to enable them to navigate the complex legal system.

A big step towards long-term security for Wales’ half a million private tenants

 

By Jennie Bibbings

Last week the Welsh Government announced a proposal that will give private tenants a minimum of one year’s protection from a no-fault eviction.

Speaking at the Shelter Cymru People and Homes conference, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James AM, said that the Government will consult on whether tenants should be given six months’ notice when they are going to be evicted using the no-fault ground, compared to the current two months’ notice.

By also banning the use of such evictions in the first six months of a tenancy, this will effectively give tenants at least a year knowing that they can’t be evicted without a good reason.

Most tenants support a ban because of the inherent unfairness of a law which allows landlords to evict without needing to show that the tenant has done anything wrong.

A survey found that nearly three-quarters of private tenants in Wales want to see the introduction of laws similar to Scotland’s, where tenancies are open-ended and no-fault evictions are banned.

The Welsh Government’s announcement follows the pledge in April by the First Minister to end no-fault evictions during this Assembly term. While this new proposal will not end no-fault evictions completely, it will be a strong deterrent for landlords. Instead many would probably use fault-based grounds, meaning they would need to provide evidence to the court to show why the eviction is necessary.

This is the art of the possible,’ said the Housing Minister at the conference. ‘Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good things that we know will make a big difference.’

At Shelter Cymru we’ve been campaigning on this issue for several years, with nearly 2,000 people signing a petition.

We’ve shared our disappointment with the Welsh Government that there won’t yet be a complete ban. However, increasing the notice period is still a big step in the right direction.

We do understand that there are practical difficulties in amending the Welsh tenancy legislation during this term. We don’t want to hold up implementation of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 any longer than necessary.

We will still be campaigning for an eventual ban. However, in the meantime this proposal will have many positive effects.

For example, it is going to effectively end the practice of revenge evictions. Even though the Renting Homes Act does offer some protection already, this additional step will ensure that no landlord will resort to no-fault grounds as a quick fix to dodge their legal responsibilities – something that happens all the time in our casework.

It’s also going to mean that very few housing associations will use no-fault grounds to evict tenants on starter tenancies – a practice that is really unfair, since nobody should ever be evicted from social housing unless there are reasons good enough to convince a judge.

As with everything though, there could also be negative consequences for some. Local authority homelessness services are going to need firm guidance on how to work with households threatened with homelessness because of a no-fault eviction.

What we do not want to see is people told to come back in six months. It would be totally unacceptable to put people through that prolonged stress and uncertainty.

Homelessness prevention work must begin as soon as a notice is served. Having a longer window for interventions could give much more scope for innovative prevention work: landlord mediation, repayment plans, support referrals, and if necessary extra time to find alternative suitable accommodation.

Soon Shelter Cymru will be putting resources online to help as many people as possible to take part in the Welsh Government’s consultation. Landlords will be making their voices heard loud and clear – we must ensure that tenants are equally heard.

Legal: Drafting issues with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014

 

Evans vs Fleri (2019)

Shelter Cymru represented Mr Evans in his appeal against an order of a district judge granting possession to his private landlord, even though the landlord was not licensed by Rent Smart Wales at the time he served Notice Requiring Possession.

This was a surprising decision given that the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 clearly requires a landlord to both register and hold a licence (or use the services of a licensed agent) in order to let a property.  If the decision were correct, even though not binding on other courts, tenants of private landlords would be vulnerable to eviction by unlicensed landlords, a situation which would fly in the face of the whole purpose of the legislation.

The wording of s.44 of the Act, dealing with notices requiring possession under s.21 Housing Act 1988, gave rise to argument in this case before a district judge considering an application for possession by a landlord who was registered but not licensed at the time he served his tenant with a s.21 Notice.

S.44 states that a section 21 Notice may not be given…if a) the landlord is not registered in respect of the dwelling or b) the landlord is not licensed…and the landlord has not appointed a person who is licensed under this Part to carry out all property management work in respect of the dwelling on the landlord’s behalf.

The landlord argued that the correct interpretation of the section was that a landlord must either be registered or licensed, not registered and licensed, in order to serve a s.21 Notice.  The district judge agreed and made a possession order, but acknowledged he might be wrong and gave permission to the tenant to appeal.

On appeal, the Circuit Judge pointed out that the word “or” can either be used to separate two scenarios which are mutually exclusive so that only one can apply – which was the district judge’s interpretation of s.44 – or it can be used to separate two scenarios which are not mutually exclusive and which therefore can apply simultaneously.  It is not the case that a landlord must either be registered or licensed.  A landlord may be registered but not licensed or may be both.  In s.44, due to poor drafting, the word ”or” is capable of having both meanings.

In order to determine the correct meaning, the judge then looked at other sections of the Act itself and at the intention of the Welsh Assembly when enacting the Housing (Wales) Act.  The Act clearly requires landlords to be registered and licensed, or to use the services of an agent who is licensed, in order to carry out property management functions such as serving notice to terminate a tenancy.

The licensing requirements are rigorous, a landlord must show s/he is a fit and proper person to hold a licence, and must go on a course.  Failure to register or hold a licence is a criminal offence punishable by a fine. The Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee of the Welsh Assembly recommended that an unlicensed landlord should be prevented from serving a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice (i.e. a s.21 Notice).  As a result of that recommendation, s.44 was inserted into the Bill and became law.

The judge commented that it would be surprising if the Welsh Assembly’s intention had been to make the serving of a notice to terminate a tenancy by an unlicensed landlord a criminal offence, and yet allow that landlord to obtain a possession order in reliance on such a notice.  Equally, it would be surprising if an unlicensed landlord, (so a landlord who is not a fit and proper person and who has not undergone training,) could serve and rely on such a notice.

The judge therefore concluded that landlords must be both registered and licensed in order to serve a valid s.21 notice, and the possession order made by the district judge was quashed.

Homeless trans people are not getting the help they need

 

 

John* was in the early stages of medical transition. Deciding to live openly as a trans man, after many years of deliberating, had caused his marriage to break down and compromised access to his child. These events led to serious mental health repercussions for him.

When John was interviewed for a new Shelter Cymru research study, he was living primarily in his van in rural Wales. He’d been homeless for nearly two years.

Despite having several decades of employment history he was working casual hours and trying hard to get a better-paid job – but none of his interviews had yet led to a job offer. He hadn’t told his employer about his trans status, believing that it would cost him work.

He had also not approached local authority homelessness services for help. Partly this was because he was under the impression that he wouldn’t be eligible for assistance as he was working a few hours a week.

He also had serious reservations about how he would be treated: like many other trans people, he worried that presenting to services would be an unpleasant experience in which his gender would be scrutinised and questioned.

Shelter Cymru’s new report, authored by PhD researcher Edith England, found that around half of the trans people interviewed had not used homelessness services despite clearly being homeless, sometimes over protracted periods.

The study, believed to be one of the largest datasets of homeless trans people in the UK, found that concerns over safety were a key factor keeping trans people from accessing help.

As well as sharing homelessness risk factors with LGBTQ+ people as a whole, such as family rejection, the study found that two additional factors existed for trans people.

First, relationship breakdown was an issue for trans people of all ages, often compounded by abuse.

Second, trans people often became homeless as a result of economic insecurity, with loss of employment especially associated with coming out as trans.

People who were accessing formal support for transitioning socially, legally and/or medically often found that maintaining access became extremely challenging once they were homeless.

But despite trans people’s fears about using homelessness services, the study found that some people who did use services had positive experiences. The overall picture was of services that want to help trans people, even though staff were not always aware of the best way to do this.

One solution that emerged was the need for specialist training for frontline staff – not just standard equalities training.

Trans people also expressed a strong preference for LGBTQ+ specific – or better yet, trans-specific – accommodation and support services, not only for young people but across the lifespan. Although this was seen as the ideal solution, there’s also a need for mainstream services to be accessible to trans people. Local authority service commissioners need to consider how this can be achieved in a way that is flexible and person-centred, rather than a generic one-size-fits-all approach.

John saw employment as his route out of homelessness. But repeated knockbacks from job interviews were taking a toll on his confidence: ‘Obviously I look good on paper because I’m getting interviews but I’m just not getting the work,’ he said. ‘And it’s quite gutting really, and I don’t know whether it’s because there’s something about me personally.

‘It could be because I’m trans, it could be because when they get my CV and they see a man’s name and they think this is going to be a man and then I turn up and they look at me and they think this isn’t a man.

‘It could be that it isn’t discrimination, it could be that there’s always a better candidate. But it starts to feel like, when you’re not ever getting a job, it starts to feel like it’s something personal. Especially when you’re always getting interviews and then you’re not getting a job.’

 

* Name changed to protect anonymity

Grenfell Tower – Two years on, how should Wales respond?

By Paul Bevan

Today marks two years since the shocking and tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, in which 72 people died and more than 70 others were injured. The impact of the tragedy became even more alarming as, very quickly, we learnt that the fire’s colossal impact was largely avoidable, had different cladding and fire measures been in place.

The sense of despair and anger reminded us so vividly of the Aberfan disaster in 1966 in which 116 children and 28 adults died – a tragedy which, like Grenfell Tower, could have been avoided.

In Wales, following the events of two years ago, social housing providers instigated work to assess the fire resistance of their properties. On a wider scale, Welsh Government established a Building Safety Expert Group which reported on improving the safety of residential buildings across Wales in the report, ‘A Road Map to Safer Buildings in Wales’.

We welcomed the immediate response to the report by Julie James AM, Housing and Local Government Minister, when, in April this year, she announced, ‘I will reflect on the group’s recommendations but one recommendation I will accept here and now is that we promote the retro-fitting of sprinklers. Hard evidence supports sprinklers’ effectiveness in preventing fatalities so I am committed to looking at how we can further promote retro-fitting in high-rise buildings across sectors.’

Although this is a welcomed step towards improving safety, the Grenfell Tower fire has come to symbolise something much more deep-rooted than questions about fire safety and building regulations. For every high-rise tenant wondering whether a similar tragedy could happen to them, there are many more who simply cannot find a home in their community. There are those who are battling to keep a roof over their heads or are sleeping rough on our streets.

The Grenfell Tower fire has come to represent how we have failed people in most need in our society – those in need of the most basic of human requirements: the need for access to shelter, a place where we feel safe and which we can call home.

This terrible tragedy, if nothing else, should commit us to doing everything we can to ensure it never happens again. A big part of that process should be to embed into Welsh legislation the right to adequate housing.

We would urge the Minister and Welsh Government to be courageous and make a lasting difference for current and future generations. A right to adequate housing can bring safety and security to everyone in Wales – now is the time to ensure that we can all have affordable, good quality and safe housing.

Priority need is an admission of failure

 

The Welsh Government has commissioned an important piece of work to look at the impact and consequences of amending or even abolishing the priority need test in Welsh homelessness legislation – John Puzey considers the test and the consequences of not abolishing it.

When the Homeless Persons Act was first introduced in 1977 the inclusion of the priority need test was an admission of scarcity; now, 42 years later, it’s an admission of failure.

The test was to ensure that people with children, or who were in some way vulnerable, would, unless they were found intentionally homeless, get a secure permanent home. There were not enough secure permanent homes to meet the needs of all homeless people as well as those on the waiting list, so it was a device to ration access to people considered in most need. If you were not in priority need, forget it – it was a winner takes all system.

We changed that in Wales a few years ago with the introduction of the first Welsh Housing Act. This new law requires that everyone facing or experiencing homelessness must get help from local authorities, whether you are in priority need or not. But priority need hasn’t gone. Yes, it has been pushed down the decision making process to a later point, but it’s still there, used as the final rationing card if all else has failed, and many people are being failed.

There are clear issues with this. What happens to people where the prevention work has not worked and who are not in priority need – perhaps, ironically, some of the most vulnerable people? How much, even sub-consciously, does the knowledge that a household may or may not be in priority need affect the effort and quality of the prevention and alleviation work? How much energy and time goes into attempting to prove someone is not vulnerable and how consistent are the decisions across Wales?

But ultimately the very existence of priority need means we have failed. We have failed in the last 42 years to ensure that there are enough homes for people who are homeless and those on waiting lists living in inadequate housing. Rationing is normally introduced for an emergency; this one has been going on for four decades!

That’s why we have to end priority need and extend the full re-housing duty to everyone who is homeless. We have to do it in a planned way, in a way that ensures the homes and support, if needed, is put in place, but we have to do it. The very commitment to doing it can drive increased social housing and improve other policies and practices such as allocations and evictions. It’s a pity this possibility was not included in the recently launched affordable homes review, but we have now, with the priority need review, an opportunity of making it clear what the continued unacceptable consequences of doing nothing are.

So we need an end point, a point when the emergency ends, when rationing ends, with milestones on the way as new groups of vulnerable people are given the hope and right to a home. What about starting with single under 35-year-olds, what about people sleeping rough?

We need a commitment to a direction of travel and a year when we arrive. Let’s not make it too far in the future because every day that goes by, homeless people across Wales are being told they are not in priority need, and that there is nothing else that can be done.