(Title Image: lovemoney.com)
Over the last few months, there’ve been a number of backbench member’s debates on issues around leasehold properties – some of which seriously impact people’s finances and quality of life. This time it’s taken the form of a proposal for a new law from Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd).
His proposed law would abolish the building of new leasehold houses in Wales (by compelling local authorities to reject planning applications for leasehold developments) and improve awareness of the issues around leaseholds in cases where they already exist.
Mick acknowledged a voluntary agreement between the Welsh Government and developers not to build new leasehold houses, but believed the issue should be put “beyond future doubt”. Leaseholding was a feudal relic of the 11th Century and holds people to ransom – though he accepted that leaseholds may still be appropriate for shared buildings like apartments.
It was within the Senedd’s powers to lead the way on this and send a message to developers that leaseholds were no longer acceptable.
Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon) highlighted that 57% of households regret buying a leasehold property; many of them may not have realised what they were signing up to. A disproportionately high proportion of new leasehold properties were being built in north Wales too.
John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) reiterated that issues like a doubling of ground rent after a certain period of time aren’t adequately explained to people before they buy a leasehold. Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central) highlighted the negative impact a leasehold can have on resale value.
Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan) raised concerns that the Welsh Government’s Help to Buy scheme was being used by first-time buyers to buy leasehold properties at Barry Waterfront.
Replying on behalf of the government, Public Services Secretary, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent), said there was very little justification for new leaseholds. Help to Buy will no longer be used to support the purchase of new leasehold homes, while the Welsh and UK governments were working together to come up with an alternative to leasehold (commonhold) based on the recommendations of the Law Commission.
The Welsh Government hasn’t ruled out introducing a law, but due to the complexity of property law, and without a detailed proposal on the table, the government couldn’t commit to supporting it.
Mick appreciated the work that had already been undertaken, but didn’t believe promises from the major housebuilders were “worth the paper they’re written on”. A law would give ourselves and future generations clarity on where we all stand.
The proposal was, nevertheless, agreed unanimously (but that doesn’t mean a law will be introduced, Mick would have to win a ballot first if he wanted to introduce a law himself).