Housing

Mike Hedges MS

Housing or shelter is the third necessity of life after food and water but far too many people live in substandard accommodation or are homeless or are concerned where they will move to next.

Private rented sector

Section 21 gives landlords the power to evict tenants without having to give a reason. Once a tenant has received a Section 21 notice following recent Welsh Government legislation, they now have six months from the date of the notice to move out. If the tenant has not moved out in that time, the landlord would need to apply to the courts for a possession order. I propose that section 21 powers are removed and that tenants cannot be removed on a landlord’s whim. Quoting the Landlord Association “For most landlords, serving a Section 21 notice will be the most common way for them to begin the process of ending a tenancy. This route to possession is simpler than serving a Section 8 notice as it does not require you attend a court hearing. It also does not require you to provide a reason why you are seeking possession. However, there are a number of procedural requirements that you must have complied with if you wish to use this type of notice to regain possession of a property.”

Landlords can also gain possession through a Section 8, fault-based, notice. This applies where tenants have not paid their rent or tenants have acted in an anti-social way. If tenants are settled in a property, the ban on Section 21 will mean that they do not have to move unless they have breached the terms of their tenancy or they wish to leave.

If my proposed ban is implemented, it will mean landlords are no longer able to issue ‘no fault’ notices to tenants and would have to provide ‘good reasons’ for eviction. This would mean that landlords will have to follow the procedure of serving a Section 8 notice. Shelter Cymru have stated that they wish for private renters in Wales to have the same rights that tenants have in other parts of the world. According to them, the proposed ban won’t stop landlords from getting the property back if they have a genuine reason, but it will give tenants the reassurance that as long as they pay rent on time and look after the property, they will have a home for as long as they need it, making the private rented sector a fairer place to live for everyone.

Leasehold Reform

A survey carried out in conjunction with the Leasehold Advisory Service found 57% of leaseholders somewhat or strongly agreed that they regretted buying a leasehold property. The Welsh Government estimated in 2012 that there were around 200,000 leasehold homes in Wales and that number has almost certainly increased. Whilst leasehold is generally associated with flats, houses can also be leasehold. The extent to which developers are selling new-build houses on a leasehold basis has caused a lot of concern for many leasehold home buyers. It is easy to understand why flats are leasehold, the lease will make clear arrangements for maintenance of the communal areas, insurance, and the building’s structure.

Issues of concern raised have included expensive ground rent clauses which soon escalate from the affordable to the unaffordable and can make it difficult to sell the property. There can be charges for consent to alter the property, and even permission to sell the property. In some cases, the freehold interest has been sold to investment companies. A way around flats being leasehold is for there to be common ownership of the shared areas in flats between all the owner and this co-operative model works well in other parts of the world.

Planning Permission for New Dwellings

Planning permission for all new developments need to include a condition that all street lights, drainage, pavements, and roads are built to the standard for adoption by the local authority. Far too often developers build houses and put in roads that are not up to the standard for the council to adopt them. The first, those who have bought the houses know about it is when they contact the council for repairs normally street lighting only to be told that the road is not adopted. The building of roads and the other infrastructure to adoptable standard was common practice in the past but some large construction companies have stopped doing it so we must legislate to make them.

Registered Social Landlords and Council Housing

We need more social housing; affordable housing should mean Council Housing and Registered social landlord (housing association) housing. Rather than an all Wales target we should have targets for each local authority area so that local need can be met. The only time since the second world war when sufficient housing was being built was when large scale l council housing was being built. We must build enough affordable homes to meet Wales’s projected housing needs over the next five years. This should be achieved through empowerment of local councils to make full use of their powers and borrowing capacity to build homes and bring empty homes back into use for social rent. Housing finance needs to ensure existing tenants do not bear the cost of new homes. Social rent increases should be capped at Consumer Price Index inflation so that rents do not outpace wages or benefits.

Housing Associations and Councils, which have not had stock transfer, should have a common waiting list. Also having a transfer system between Housing Associations and Council housing would make it easier for people to move. Currently you have to know which registered social landlords have properties in the area you wish to live but with a common application system people will only have to register once. With transfers people could then move between housing association properties and also housing association and council properties.

Mike Hedges is the Senedd member for Swansea East