Cross-party consensus on a right to adequate housing

(Title Image: Cardiff University)

This week’s short debate was led by Dawn Bowden AM (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney).

Housing problems are “deep-rooted and erosive”

Since being first elected in 2016, Dawn Bowden has felt “frustration” of the depth of housing problems in different communities, resulting in lack of supply, homelessness and unaffordability.

While the Welsh Government has made strides towards incremental change in the housing market through various measures in the rental sector, scrapping right to buy etc., the “persistent, deep-rooted” nature of housing problems requires a fresh response.

A right to adequate housing didn’t necessarily mean building a home for everyone but supporting social progress.

“….the sponsors of the recent feasibility report support the idea of taking a mixed approach to the incorporation of the right to adequate housing (via the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). That is, they believe there should be both direct and indirect incorporation so that there is a strong proactive framework for a right to housing in policy making, but also the right to enforcement if that right is breached.”
– Dawn Bowden AM

She accepted there may not be enough time to introduce such legislation before the end of the current term, but hoped the Communities Committee and Welsh Government will look at it before then.

Shadow Housing Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central), said there was a lot of sympathy for the idea amongst Conservatives and there was a desire to forge a new consensus – similar to the post-war period – where housing was as important as health and education in terms of universal access.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) saw no other solution but large-scale council house building, which he believes will also result in a fall in the number of buy-to-lets and private renting as people will have an alternative.

Working in the spirit of the Covenant

Deputy Minister without portfolio, Jane Hutt (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan), told AMs that while the UK is yet to ratify and adopt the Covenant, there was no reason why the Welsh Government couldn’t work in the same spirit, benefiting from cross-party consensus. There was already a lot happening:

“….it’s not just the number of homes we build but how we ensure they are of high quality, and here our investment in the Welsh housing quality standard ensures that many of our most vulnerable people live in decent homes, and those homes also need to meet the needs of future generations and be near zero carbon, helping the environment and lifting households out of fuel poverty.”
– Deputy Minister without portfolio, Jane Hutt