- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Latest News, Press Releases
MIKE HEDGES MS STATES CASE FOR MORE COUNCIL HOUSES AND ASKS FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION ON OTHER HOUSING ISSUES
Speaking from the Senedd, local Swansea East MS, Mike Hedges said .. ‘ I regularly have residents contact me with housing issues and many have heartrending tales; building more Council houses should be THE top priority for the Welsh Government through the 6th Senedd.
It will take time to build houses and there are things the government can do now. The Government could end the rules for business rate relief on houses, making them eligible for council tax.
We need the Welsh Government to be proactive NOW to address the housing shortage now, not wait for events to develop.
06/07/2021 16:06:47 / Mike Hedges MS
I’m very pleased that we have had this statement today. We have too few houses, we have too few affordable houses. House prices have increased due to a shortage of accommodation, but also Government policies such as Help to Buy and the land transaction tax holiday have pushed up prices. The biggest housing shortages are in Cardiff and Swansea and I refer the Minister to the council house waiting lists of both those cities. It’s obvious to me that we need more council housing. The only time, post war, when housing supply equalled housing demand was when large-scale council housing was taking place and we had council housing available, and previously privately rented accommodation was available for owner occupation. It was a win-win situation. We’ve gone into no council housing—or very few council houses—being built and lots of privately rented accommodation. A lose-lose situation. Whilst the longer term solution is building more council houses, there are short-term solutions. Will the Welsh Government end business rates relief on houses and treat all houses as liable to council tax? Finally, why does the Welsh Government think that a pilot project will not just produce displacement rather than a change in the actions of people?
06/07/2021 16:08:06 / Julie James MS
Thank you very much, Mike. Your long commitment to pushing Governments to build more council and social housing is well known and recognised. And you’re absolutely right: one of the biggest problems we’ve got in the housing crisis across Wales is the number of people in temporary or substandard accommodation, for which we absolutely do need to build, at scale and pace, the social housing that we vitally need across Wales. We also need to make sure that it’s built in the right places. There is a crying need for a very large scale in some areas of Wales, but there is a need for a scale of council housing right across Wales, sometimes in small envelopes in little villages where people need to stay, sometimes in bigger envelopes in cities where people have a crying need to have a decent home.
We also need to work with our private rented sector landlords, many of whom work very happily alongside us, to make sure that their housing is brought into play as well. I commend to Members across the Chamber—as I always do—the scheme where we allow private rented sector landlords to give their houses over to us so that we can afford those houses for social tenants whilst we bring the house back up to the standard that people are entitled to expect in the private rented sector—a win-win situation, as indeed you say, Mike.
We have a number of issues that we want to take forward. On the business rates thing, I’ve already said in answer to a previous speaker that we will be putting a consultation out about exactly what the level of business rate flip should be allowed to be, whether the small business rate relief should apply and whether it should be allowed at all, of course. There are issues with genuine holiday lets, built as holiday lets, whether they’re run by businesses or run by companies; if they’re having to pay domestic council tax, they might have problems. So, we do need to make sure that we get this right across the piece. And, of course, the registration scheme for holiday lets will come into play there as we have people register either as private sector landlords or as registered holiday let operatives, and we can see what comes out of that. So, I’m very keen on that.
We’ve been in a very good place in Wales, because we have Rent Smart Wales working with our private sector landlords. We’ve had a wealth of information and a good relationship with our landlords as a result of that, which is the envy of Governments elsewhere in the UK. I’d look to have something very similar in the holiday let sector. We’ve already had a couple of really good meetings with Airbnb, who are one of the biggest operators in that sector. They’re pushing a registration scheme in a number of countries at the moment, so we’re keen to build on their expertise as well.
But, broadly, Mike, I agree with you: the actual way out of the housing crisis is to build the amount of social homes that we increasingly need right across Wales, and to ensure that it’s not a rationing system but a system that’s accessible to everyone who wants that kind of home.