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Co-operation agreement spells out radical changes for housing

A right to adequate housing, rent control and radical action on second homes are on the agenda for Wales following a wide-ranging Co-operation Agreement signed by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

First minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid leader Adam Price said the policies in the agreement fulfilled the ‘promise of a new kind of politics’ and would enable ‘a stable Senedd, capable of delivering radical change’.

Joint priorities in 46 policy areas also include a National Care Service, a national construction company, a second phase of the Building Safety Fund, reform of homelessness law and council tax reform.

The parties will also commission independent advice on pathways to net zero by 2035 rather than 2050 and work towards the creation of Ynni Cymru, a publicly owned national energy company for Wales to expand community-owned renewable energy generation.

And they want widespread action on Welsh language education and standards, tackling poverty and inequality and diversity and equality.

The commitments most closely related to housing  come under the headline of ‘radical action for testing times’, with the parties highlighting rising household bills, the housing crisis and care for older people. They include:

  • Future of Social Care – Set up an expert group to support our shared ambition to create a National Care Service, free at the point of need, continuing as a public service. We will agree an implementation plan by the end of 2023. We will continue to better integrate health and care and work towards parity of recognition and reward for health and care workers.
  • Second homes – Take immediate and radical action to address the proliferation of second homes and unaffordable housing, using the planning, property and taxation systems.
    Actions being planned include a cap on the number of second and holiday homes; measures to bring more homes into common ownership; a statutory licensing scheme for holiday lets; greater powers for local authorities to charge council tax premiums and increasing taxes on second homes. We will explore local authority mortgages.
  • National construction company – Establish Unnos, a national construction company,
    to support councils and social landlords to improve the supply of social and affordable housing.
  • Building safety – Significantly reform the current system of building safety, which has allowed
    a culture of cutting corners to the detriment of public safety. We will introduce a second phase of the Welsh Building Safety Fund.
  • Property and Fair Rents – Publish a White Paper to include proposals for a right to adequate housing, the role a system of fair rents (rent control) could have in making the private rental market affordable for local people on local incomes and new approaches to making homes affordable.
  • Homelessness – End homelessness. If people are made homeless it should be brief, rare and unrepeated. We will reform housing law, enact the Renting Homes Act to give renters greater security and implement the Homeless Action Group recommendations.
  • Council tax reform – Reform one of the most regressive forms of taxation – which disproportionately impacts poorer areas of Wales – to make it fairer.

First minister Mark Drakeford said:

‘We can achieve more for people in Wales by working together and the Co-operation Agreement is both a response to the external challenges we face and a chance to build on the opportunities in our future. It will also help us secure a stable Senedd over the next three years, capable of delivering radical change and reform. These commitments build on our shared values of social solidarity, a sustainable planet and a vibrant democracy.’

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said:

‘Taken together, the bold policy pledges will unite Wales and benefit every generation, from all primary school pupils receiving free school meals to a national care service, free at the point of need. I am pleased this pioneering Co-operation Agreement is founded on common ground on a range of issues that will make a long-lasting difference to people’s lives.’

The Co-operation Agreement has been welcomed by housing organisations. A joint statement from the Back the Bill campaign (Tai Pawb, Shelter Cymru and CIH Cymru) said:

‘We are very pleased to see a cross-party commitment in government that looks to introduce a right to adequate housing. We believe the principle of a human right to housing is a core element of any solution to the current crisis in Wales and can help address some of the key housing issues of the day. Good quality, affordable and appropriate housing is a bedrock for all aspects of our lives, including health, education and life chances. The co-operation agreement further recognises the fundamental role of housing by looking to address issues of affordability and committing to ending homelessness.

‘The campaign for introducing the right has gone from strength to strength in recent months, receiving support from stakeholders across Wales. It is testament to both the pivotal role of housing in peoples’ lives and the appetite for a seismic shift in policy that embeds a rights-based approach in law.

‘We’re looking forward to working with partners to further develop the research and knowledge base and supporting the commitment via the Cooperation Agreement, enabling Wales to become a world-leader in its approach to housing as a human right.’

Matt Kennedy, policy and public affairs manager at CIH Cymru, added:

‘Focus and attention must now turn to the forthcoming Welsh Government budget discussions, where a long-term funding commitment is needed if the ambition outlined in today’s agreement is to be met in practice. That alongside addressing some of the broader tensions around access to materials, resources within housing departments at a local authority level, and the affordability crisis facing many tenants and communities. We look forward to helping to shape and progress the ambitions outlined today – using the insight, expertise and experiences of housing professionals and tenants living and working across Wales.’





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