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Twitter chat explores housing’s role in solving poverty

October 15th 2020

In its latest #ChallengePovertyWeek event the Bevan Foundation held a twitter chat to discuss the role of housing in solving poverty

A photo of a Welsh Valleys town

Housing costs are the largest living costs faced by most families in Wales. People trapped in poverty are often pushed to live in poor quality, overcrowded housing. Indeed, housing costs themselves can push some into poverty with the median social and private rent being unaffordable to a quarter of the Welsh population. Designing a housing system that provides everyone with a safe, warm and affordable home is therefore vital if we are to solve poverty.

As part of its #ChallengePovertyWeek activities the Bevan Foundation hosted a twitter chat with a range of individuals and organisation including Community Housing Cymru, Tai Pawb, TPAS Cymru and Tamsin Stirling to discuss how housing can be a solution, not a driver of poverty. 5 questions were discussed during the chat:

1. Why does housing matter?

As TPAS Cymru noted – “Housing matters because it is at the centre of everything”. This was a view shared by all contributors who noted its importance as a shelter, as a safe space and as a living cost that can’t be avoided. But as Ross Thomas from Tai Pawb argued “housing is taken for granted by many of us. Too many people have poor quality homes that are cold, damp, unsafe – with a lack of long-term security.”

2. How can we increase the availability of affordable housing?

There was agreement from all contributors that there is a need to construct more social housing. Tamsin Stirling argued that there is a need to be clearer what we mean by affordable housing. “I think I would ditch the term ‘affordable housing’ – it has been misused & abused – or at the very least put clear parameters around it – whether this be living rent or another definition.”  Another issue that was discussed and got significant support was whether there is a need to introduce rent controls to increase the affordability of the private rental sector.

3. How do we ensure that homes are genuinely affordable?

All contributors were agreed that there is a need to increase Government investment in housing to ensure rents remain affordable. Community Housing Cymru argued “We need to see continued and consistent investment from Welsh Government, in partnership with housing associations and local authorities to meet housing need and deliver a Wales where good housing is a basic right for all.”

4. Are there other roles the housing sector can play as we seek to solve poverty?

Tweeters noted a range of outstanding services and operating practices from the housing sector which play a role in reducing the sector’s impact on poverty. There was agreement that more of this work can be undertaken. Victoria Winckler argued however – “Social landlords can do a lot in their rent setting, service charges and evictions policies .They need to get these right THEN address financial inclusion, employability etc.”

5. What action would you like political parties to commit to in their manifestos ahead of May’s Senedd election to ensure that housing forms part of the solution to poverty?

The construction of more social housing was at the top of most panellists lists when looking ahead to the next election. Many contributors argued that there is a need to construct at least 20,000 affordable homes over the next Welsh Parliamentary term. Another popular idea was putting the right to housing into law, recognising the importance of “home” for everyone.

You can read more about what the Bevan Foundation are up to this Challenge Poverty Week and learn more about how you can support us, here.

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