Calum Davies is the Welsh Policy & Public Affairs Officer at the RLA. Here he reflects on the last few weeks in Welsh politics.
Homelessness has been high on the political agenda in Wales over the last month.
With October 10 marking World Homeless Day, we were updated on the Welsh Government’s homelessness strategy, with the Welsh Conservatives launching their 10-point plan to end homelessness in Wales two days later.
Entitled ‘More than a Refuge’ it aims to end rough sleeping in Wales by 2026.
Among the proposals is a programme to build 40,000 new social homes over the next decade and plans to bring 150 empty social housing properties back into use for veterans at risk of homelessness.
Cross-governmental work to scrap the Vagrancy Act for England and Wales is also planned.
The RLA is committed to working alongside partners to end homelessness – while ensuring private landlords are supported and not negatively affected by proposals.
However, we are concerned that both strategies fail to recognise the important role the PRS can play when it comes to tackling the issues.
It is completely understandable that policymakers are looking at the social sector as the engine to hasten the process of ending homelessness and rough sleeping.
After all, the more social housing there is, the better.
It homes those in need of support which, in turn, frees up PRS properties for those who can afford to rent privately but have been struggling to find suitable accommodation.
However, given that the PRS makes up 13% of households in Wales, local authorities are still reliant on private landlords for temporary accommodation for the homelessness, and so must be part of any conversation around ending homelessness.
That need becomes even more apparent given other developments.
Possession reform – currently under discussion in Wales – could exacerbate the issue of homelessness.
Despite the planned changes to Section 21 (or Section 173 once the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill in brought into effect) being proposed as a way of tackling homelessness, it could end up pushing landlords out of the PRS altogether as they lose confidence in their ability to take back possession of their properties.
Empty homes report
Additionally, an Assembly committee report on empty homes was released this week.
The RLA responded to the consultation, stressing the importance of local authorities and relevant stakeholders working with the PRS to develop a stronger relationship, recognising that empty properties can be empty for a good reason – and the difficult task landlords have in filling empty properties in hard-to-rent areas.
It must also be noted that many landlords are cautious when it comes to renting to low-income tenants – and that many of these concerns could be eased by government.
Having housing benefit paid directly to landlords and the lifting of the Local Housing Allowance could have a massive impact.
We all want to see an end to people sleeping rough and more security for landlords and tenants, but there cannot be a solution without including all relevant stakeholders – and that includes the PRS.