(Title Image: BBC Wales)
- Notice period for evictions extended to 31st March 2021 except for evictions triggered by antisocial behaviour or domestic violence.
- Concerns tenancy saver loan scheme – for tenants facing arrears – may increase debt.
- Talks ongoing with Finance Minister on changes to business-related liabilities for second homes.
The headline from yesterday’s statement from Housing & Local Government Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West) is an extension of the temporary coronavirus pandemic notice period for evictions to the 31st March 2021.
The extension doesn’t apply to those evictions on antisocial or domestic violence grounds. A Bill which will give a one year notice period for no-fault evictions is still being taken forward.
Additionally, the Minister has used the lockdown period to make “transformative steps” to reduce and eventually eliminate homelessness, with £50million provided to 70 different projects.
The emerging issue is the economic impact of the pandemic which will increase levels of poverty. Work was ongoing with councils to ensure free school meals and council tax reductions are more accessible, as well as streamlining and simplifying the processes households have to go through to receive help and advice.
Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood MS (Con, North Wales), criticised the inefficiencies in current rough-sleeping programmes. An Audit Wales report suggests £209million is “wasted” by the Welsh public sector reacting to and not solving rough-sleeping.
Whilst welcoming protection for tenants, he called for better support for landlords – many of whom may rent one or two properties or be reliant on rent as a source of income. He suggested a low or zero-interest loan scheme.
The Minister informed the chamber such a loan scheme (tenancy saver loans – pdf) already exists, with tenants applying for the 1% APR loan which is subsequently paid to the landlord.
While being one of several members who supported a rights-based approach to housing, Delyth Jewell MS (Plaid, South Wales East) thought the rush to move rough-sleepers into temporary accommodation may have presented problems of its own, with people moved to inappropriate settings. An example was given of a domestic abuse victim being housed alongside people with substance abuse problems.
Additionally, the tenancy saver loan scheme may increase debt problems, while those facing eviction for antisocial behaviour will need support to find alternative housing and to deal with any problems they might have.
Llyr Gruffydd MS (Plaid, North Wales) called for changes to the planning system to clamp down on second home ownership. He cited figures which suggest 40% of all homes sold in Gwynedd last year were second homes.
The Minister was keen to learn lessons on managing second homes from programmes in Cornwall – which haven’t been entirely successful – and confirmed talks were continuing with the Finance Minister on changes to business-related liabilities of second homes, which several members have called for in the past.