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Considering the evidence

In the first in a new WHQ series, Jennie Bibbings gives an update on the work of the Senedd and its committees on housing-related issues.

Housing returns to centre stage at the Local Government and Housing Committee this spring, with two inquiries considering aspects of Wales’s housing system.

An inquiry into the private rented sector is well underway. The written consultation, which closed in May last year, had 29 responses bringing various perspectives to aspects of the inquiry’s remit  including supply, quality and affordability.

The committee started taking oral evidence in February, hearing from academics, landlords, local authorities, tenants and charities. Committee members have also been running engagement sessions with tenants and landlords to hear first-hand about their experiences.

At the time of writing (early March) the committee was due to take evidence directly from the Welsh Government on 18 April. This is planned as the final evidence session, with the committee aiming to publish its report in the summer.

Then it’s on to the next inquiry – and it’s another big one.

Building social housing: can the Welsh Government do more?

The committee’s next planned inquiry will scrutinise the Welsh Government’s record on social housing supply.

The target to deliver 20,000 low carbon social homes for rent during this Senedd term, 2021 to 2026, is a commitment under the Programme for Government. In the first two years, 5,775 homes were delivered towards the target.

In November 2023 the minister for climate change, Julie James MS, told the committee that she was ‘holding on’ to the 20,000 target, adding that ‘we didn’t think that we’d do 4,000 a year for five years’.

The minister went on to say: ‘If you look at the last Senedd term, actually, the target accelerated because we put the money in this end, and it takes a while for it to come through and out the other end.’

The committee will consider the Welsh Government’s strategic approach. What tools has the Welsh Government got, and is every tool being fully used? Is it possible to think bigger and scale up to deliver more?

A number of witnesses will be bringing external perspectives from the UK and Europe to help members look at the Welsh approach from outside. Questions about strategic land management, planning, and the potential for borrowing and investment, are all in the inquiry’s terms of reference.

The call for written evidence closes on 19 April, and oral evidence sessions should begin in late May. The current aim is for a report to be published in the autumn.

Leasehold reform and landlord discrimination

There are two more current items of housing-related committee business to be aware of. Both are included within legislation introduced in the UK Parliament, so the committee is considering Welsh Government Legislative Consent Memoranda (LCMs) in relation to both Bills.

These are the UK Government’s Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill and the Renters Reform Bill. Both LCMs have also been referred to the Senedd’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee for its consideration.

Whenever the UK Parliament wishes to legislate using a UK Bill on a subject that’s devolved to Wales, convention requires it to receive the consent of the Senedd. The purpose of an LCM is to explain the policy objectives of a UK Bill in order to get that consent.

The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill aims to make it easier for leaseholders to extend their lease or to purchase their freehold, and also aims to regulate service charges. The First Minister indicated last year that the Welsh Government felt ‘the most effective way of putting right the wrongs that still exist in the leasehold area is to legislate on that Wales-and-England basis’. At the time of writing the Committee was due to report on this LCM by 15 March.

The Renters Reform Bill aims to make several changes to the regime for private renters in England, including ending no-fault evictions and creating a national landlord register. While most of these reforms wouldn’t apply to Wales, the LCM seeks to apply the Bill’s anti-discrimination measures within Wales. This would make it illegal for private landlords to apply blanket bans to prospective tenants who are claiming benefits or would have children living at or visiting the premises.

This LCM has raised some questions which the Senedd’s Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee has said it wants to explore further. The committee wrote to the Llywydd requesting an extension to the reporting deadline, saying that ‘there are a number of important issues arising from this memorandum’ that need unpicking.

The extension was granted, and the two committees are now working to a reporting deadline of 26 April.

Jennie Bibbings is a senior researcher at the Senedd. Senedd Research provides impartial research and analysis to Members of the Senedd and committees. They publish lots of their work for everyone to read at research.senedd.wales and you can follow them on X @SeneddResearch. Catch up with committee business on the Senedd website and on Senedd.tv.


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