Help for people in the rented Sector

Everyone needs safe, stable and suitable housing to stay well, but in Wales, that is becoming the privilege of fewer people every year, due to soaring prices and limited public sector budgets.

Renters in Wales have a bad deal: 37% of private renters in Wales earn less than £15,000, and almost half of private households in Wales spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

This leaves over 100,000 households with very little to spend on basic living expenses like food, heating or transport. Rent is becoming more and more expensive while wages are stagnating.

Plaid Cymru will help those people by creating a new tax credit of up to £25 a week to households paying over 30% of their income on private rent.

Investment in Affordable Homes

We need an overhaul of housing policy in Wales. The supply of new units of social housing remains lower than it was in the 1990s. This reflects successive governments’ lack of willingness to invest in new social housing.

We need to have substantially more affordable housing if we are not to deprive an entire generation of the reasonable expectation of having a decent home. We believe that the supply of more affordable housing should be met through a combination of bringing empty properties back into use, and new developments of mixed housing in the social and private sectors. However, we also want local needs and environmental sustainability to be taken into account.

We will create a National Housing Company which will borrow against rents to build a new generation of public rental housing in Wales limited in number only by demand. We will also support Local Authorities wishing to build new Council Housing. Local Authorities will be expected to agree targets for supplying affordable housing, including new social housing, with the Welsh Government, but will be given the flexibility to decide how they would achieve this based upon the needs of their area.

We will fund the development of new homes in small-scale housing developments in rural Wales on ‘exception sites’, whose land plots, not covered by general planning permission, will be capped at an affordable price designed to benefit those in local housing need with family and work ties to the area, and whose sale will be conditional on these houses continuing in local ownership in perpetuity.

Plaid Cymru has consistently opposed the Right to Buy scheme and we will take action to ensure the social housing stock remains intact in order to meet the demand for homes. We will introduce a more rigorous system in the allocation of social housing to give priority to those in local housing need. We will support the release of public land as self-build plots for affordable homes, to buy and to lease, and allow housing associations to build their own high-quality prefabricated homes.

Housing Quality

We will take action to provide better quality homes for all. We will reform the private rented sector to ensure it can meet the needs of current renters. We will implement restrictions on rent increases within tenancies, and reform tenancy law to grant renters longer-term and more secure tenancies, which will also benefit landlords. We will put in place a system of rent control in the private rental sector to increase security and stability of tenure without harming housing supply. This will include more effective regulation of letting agencies, which drive up the cost of private renting through unscrupulous practices and hidden fees.

Energy efficient housing is a key element of quality housing. Plaid Cymru will raise environmental standards in housing and will ensure these standards apply to both new-build housing and older-stock. We note the importance of retrofitting for the construction industry in Wales. We will raise the legal requirements for the condition of privately rented homes, to ensure that all rented properties are of a decent standard. We will ensure that new housing is of a lifetime houses standard so we can increase our supply of adapted homes, allowing individuals to stay in their own home without further costly adaptations.

Homelessness

The slashing of public provisions and benefits by consecutive Conservative Governments in Westminster, together with a policy of ‘managed decline’ by the Welsh Labour Government, has led to huge increases in homelessness. Across Britain, more than 12,300 people sleep on the streets each night, with a further 12,000 spending the night in cars, trains, buses or tents.

Homelessness increased by 63% in Wales between 2012 and 2017, with 10,373 households threatened by homelessness between 2018 and 2019. Plaid Cymru believe that no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a person must sleep on the street. Above all, tackling this problem is a question of political will.

We support the comprehensive and detailed plan produced by the homelessness charity Crisis which, if implemented would end homelessness and bring overall savings to UK public services of around £34.6 billion by 2041. In Wales it would entail savings of about £70 million a year.

Plaid Cymru will adopt a ‘housing first’ philosophy - as implemented in countries like Finland – to support those that are homeless. Recovery programmes are more successful after an individual has been housed. Being asked to be abstinent and/or sober whilst homeless prior to receiving housing is impractical.

We are committed to abolishing the archaic Vagrancy Act of 1824, a pre-Victorian law that makes homelessness a crime. Not only is fining or imprisoning those on the streets cruel, it leads to them being actively discouraged from engaging with the police for fear of enforcement measures being taken. This does not help anyone.

We support an approach based on Centrepoint’s key principles to tackle youth homelessness. There should be a ‘single front door’ for young people to have a consistent and reliable place to access help. We will ensure that agencies coordinate their activities to respond to young people at risk. Too often young people fall between the gaps of different services and agencies.

Plaid Cymru is fighting for a fairer benefit system that will take the cost of housing into account.

Planning

We will create a planning framework that prioritises sustainable development and protects against environmentally damaging developments. Our aim is a system that provides greater freedom for individuals to improve their own homes but less freedom for the large developers to ride roughshod over communities.

We will reform the Local Development Plan system to ensure that development is far more collaborative, involving communities at a far earlier stage in the process than at present. We will ensure the Welsh language is given greater prominence in the planning system, with all large developments being required to demonstrate a positive impact on the language.

We will create a Welsh-based Planning Inspectorate that is required to meet the needs of our communities. We will ensure fairness in the planning system through strengthening the rights of communities to speak and provide evidence to planning committees and ensure that committees receive genuinely independent legal advice.