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The Housing Bill – what might it look like?

WHQ asked a range of organisations and individuals whose work focuses on housing in Wales to identify the issues that they would like to see addressed in Wales’ first Housing Bill.

Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru

No one who is involved in housing in Wales needs to be reminded of the scale of the challenges we are up against – record waiting lists, demand for affordable housing outstripping supply, less public money available and fewer homes being delivered, while homelessness and repossessions start to creep up.

In developing the Housing Bill, we need think carefully about some of these issues and what role legislation might play in bringing about change. This means:

  • we need to make sure we are very clear about what it is trying to fix in order that we avoid ‘legislation for legislation’s sake’
  • we must assess the impact of proposed legislation for housing providers, tenants, and wider communities
  • we have to consider any potential unintended consequences of anything that we are planning on implementing

CIH Cymru’s plea is that we learn from previous lessons and ensure that new legislation is not developed in isolation but is well thought through, fit for purpose and backed up by resources to make it happen.

Community Housing Cymru

Promoting innovation in collaborative activities improves service outcomes and makes scarce resources stretch further. This is enhanced by the opportunity to outline progressive legislation within the Housing Bill to:

  • improve lives by preventing homelessness
  • improve the number and quality of our homes, and
  • improve regulation which is essential for securing additional private lending for the housing sector in the future

Encouragement and action is needed to ensure that empty homes are brought back into use by providing incentives and disincentives to make an important contribution to meeting housing need. After a period where housing association supply has been on the increase, we need to ensure that we protect supply as there are still over 90,000 people on social housing waiting lists in Wales and the rate of home ownership has declined in recent years due to the high level of house prices, the need for larger deposits and stricter lending criteria set by banks.

It is vital to ensure that primary legislation addresses Welsh concerns and optimises the opportunity for appropriate secondary legislation.

Cymorth Cymru

Cymorth recognises the difficult socio-economic context the Welsh Government and partners are working within and every day our members respond to the impact on individuals and families. From Cymorth\’s perspective, there are three priorities for government if Wales is to come through the challenging times ahead:

  • promoting economic activity/growth
  • combating the human cost of financial hardship
  • supporting vulnerable citizens to have the best quality of life possible

There are moral and financial reasons why public funding for programmes that deliver on these areas needs to be our priority; housing investment creates jobs and opportunities, the Supporting People programme saves more than it costs, and we have a moral duty to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens aren’t the ones who pay the price for other people’s mistakes.

Lee Cecil

What I would like to see within the Housing Bill are measures that will support mixed, balanced, sustainable communities:

  • mixed – private home owners, private tenants and social tenants (people)
  • balanced – not all social or all private
  • sustainable – well managed and the buildings as green as possible
  • communities – what Wales still has

For the first time in its history, Wales has an opportunity to make the ‘right’ decisions. We have devolution of housing, health and education. What an exciting prospect.

Ministers need to be knowledgeable when they consider the recommendations made by the Communities and Culture Committee inquiry into making the most of the private rented sector and the Rugg Review and how these might be reflected in legislation. Where are they going to get true, independent advice regarding the private rented sector? That is a big question. Welsh Government needs specialist advice and solutions from those working in the private rented sector, not ‘we know about the private rented sector’ (you don’t). We should come up with the answers alongside our public sector colleagues.

The UK is in a double dip recession; we need to act, think and deliver differently to the past, otherwise we will deliver exactly what we have done in the past. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same things time and time again, but expecting different results.

Let Wales be honest with itself and lets get rid of the silo mentality, misinformation and prejudice regarding the private rented sector. The majority of the private rented sector is good; as within society, most people are good.

As for some specifics ……

  • I believe in engagement of the good landlords and enforcement against the bad. Councils are the only enforcer in town. Let’s do it consistently and fairly across Wales. Blanket regulation doesn’t work and this applies even more to Wales than to other parts of the UK
  • what we need is true partnership, with the private rented sector as an equal partner and an equal channel of housing provision alongside local authorities and registered social landlords would alleviate some of the supply issues we have. This will take a change in attitudes and partnership working
  • the establishment of virtual delivery teams could help to deliver the right long term solutions as regards the private rented sector

Lee Cecil, Property Investor, developer and Head of the National Landlords Association for Wales

RNIB Cymru

‘It is predicted that by 2020 the number of people with sight loss will rise to over 2,250,000.’

‘It is predicted that by 2050 the numbers of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million.’

The Royal National Institute of Blind people Cymru would like to see considerations for people with sight loss within the Wales Housing Bill which will help future proof the design of social housing in Wales. More needs to be done to ensure environments such as sheltered schemes for older people, meet the needs of all tenants within the household. As we all get older so do our eyes; 22% of people aged 75 and over experience sight loss and this rises to 53% of people aged 90 and over.

Adding effective lighting and colour and tonal contrast to living areas will reduce the risk of an older person with sight loss experiencing a fall and increase their quality of life through reducing dependency. An all white bathroom is very difficult to use if you only have 20% sight; adding cost effective attractive design and colour can help a partially sighted person to use the facilities more easily. Including these fundamental access and design criteria as part of the Housing Bill will not only support thousands of people with sight loss living in social housing, but will also help address the cost of treating falls amongst older people.

Tai Pawb

Tai Pawb recognises the vital contribution that private sector housing is making towards the provision of accommodation and alleviation of homelessness.

In view of this, it would like to see an independent regulator of the private rented sector, including a compulsory register of landlords, given that most landlord accreditation schemes are voluntary – we would like to see them as mandatory. This would enable the government to ensure that it places obligations on the private rented sector in relation to equalities that go beyond the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, where there is currently only an obligation not to discriminate.

Private sector landlords could do so much more, in terms of promoting equality of access to good quality homes. We note that there is no equivalent of a Guarantee for Housing Association residents in the private rented sector and this would be very much welcomed by Tai Pawb, as it could build in further safeguards for tenants who feel that they are being treated less favourably on the grounds of a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010.

Tai Pawb would also like to see regulations on all developments in the private sector to ensure that they are compatible with lifetime homes as a minimum.

Tenant Participation Advisory Service Cymru: a Housing Bill to defend fundamentals

Like most organisations TPAS Cymru has a shopping list of matters to include in the Housing Bill for Wales. Most are concerned with our core aim to improve services to tenants and the quality of community life through tenant and resident participation. To touch on a few examples, we would want to see:

  • completion of the new regulatory framework for housing associations with graduated and proportionate enforcement to secure quality of services, viability and transparent governance with embedded tenant involvement
  • and its extension to local authority landlords and tenants for equality for all social housing tenants
  • revision of right to manage provision for tenants with serious dissatisfaction about the services they receive. Currently only the single solution of a tenant management organisation is on offer but a spectrum of options would be better
  • stronger regulation of the private rented sector with mechanisms to support private landlords to manage and maintain better

These are concerned with improvements to the social housing system as it is, and it’s easy to focus on just this. I believe the housing sector needs to look up and see that the whole basis of social housing is under attack. If we don’t, we could well end up managing the debris of social housing and the consequent problems.

I, (John Drysdale), would like to see the Housing Bill:

  • state clearly the principle for social housing in Wales that people on lower incomes cannot afford decent accommodation at commercial prices and subsidy is necessary
  • set out the purposes of social housing with its benefits for quality of health, education, employability, environment, security and social cohesion

The Bill would need to follow up this endorsement of social housing with action to try to increase affordable housing. A difficult ask in the face of the ill informed and misguided public sector cuts. Nevertheless, I would like to see the Bill explore the potential of co-operative provision such as mutual home ownership linked to flexible tenure for renting/owning.

Councillor Dyfed Edwards – leader Gwynedd Council, Welsh Local Government Association Housing Spokesperson

There is no doubt that the first Housing Bill for Wales offers a fantastic opportunity to tackle challenges that up until now we have been powerless to do anything about. However, it could be all too easy to get carried away and think that at long last we have that magic wand and those three wishes from the legislation fairy. Before the lawyers burn the Welsh Government’s midnight oil, let’s make sure that we are very clear on three things. Firstly, that it is the law that needs changing rather than the way we use it, secondly whether in these difficult financial times, we have the resources to effectively implement the changes set out in legislation and finally, that we fully understand the impact of our proposals and the unintended consequences.

With these words of caution out of the way, let us now consider a
number of changes that could make a real difference to housing in Wales. We must work together and grasp this once in our lifetime opportunity for a Housing Bill in Wales that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

There are a number of opportunities. For example, there is widespread consensus that new legislation has an important role to play in improving the private rented sector. Housing legislation can do little to increase the supply of new homes, but it could help to make better use of existing homes and prevent homelessness. For example, if councils had powers to charge more than 100% council tax, this could reduce the number of empty homes and second homes. Legislation could also help councils and housing associations to work more closely together to prevent and address homelessness. The time is also right to review the homelessness legislation much of which has been in place for several decades, and place the focus clearly on preventing homelessness.

The Housing Bill offers a one off and exciting opportunity; let\’s make sure we use it to make a real difference in Wales.


We know that empty homes, the private rented sector and homelessness have already been mentioned by the Minister as likely to feature in the Housing Bill. And we also know that the Welsh Labour Manifesto includes reference to the New Foundations model which may involve the development of a completely new form of tenure.

To assist with developing the detail of the Housing Bill, it will be useful to consider the findings of, and recommendations from, a number of previous and forthcoming reviews and research publications which explicitly consider the role of legislation in some way. These include:

  • private rented sector

    – Julie Rugg and David Rhodes (2008) – The Private Rented Sector: its contribution and potential www.york.ac.uk

    – Law Commission (2008) – Housing: encouraging responsible letting www.justice.gov.uk

    – Communities and Culture Committee (2011) – Making the Most of the Private Rented Sector www.assemblywales.org

  • tenure reform

    – Law Commission (2003 – 2006) Renting Homes – two reports and a number of consultation documents www.justice.gov.uk

  • homelessness

    – Homelessness Monitoring Group (various dates) – annual reports in relation to the implementation of the recommendations of the Scottish Homelessness Task Force www.scotland.gov.uk

    – Mackie and Hoffman (2011) Stakeholder perspectives on homelessness legislation in Wales – report for the Welsh Government

    – Welsh Government (forthcoming) – research being commissioned to review the homelessness legislation in Wales – final report, including impact assessment, due to be submitted to Welsh Government by the end of July 2012

We will also need to be mindful of the impact of the implementation of legislation. There are significant variations in how current housing legislation is implemented across Wales; this is as likely to be the case in relation to any new legislation.

The coming months are going to be very interesting ones for the housing community in Wales. We need to ensure that we use our collective skills and experience wisely to rise to the challenge of forging our own legislative destiny.

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