Tai Pawb calls for you to “Back the Bill”

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ResourcesViewsNovember 10th, 2022

A safe, suitable, and sustainable home is fundamental to a happy life. Tai Pawb thinks the legal right to an adequate home is a change that we cannot afford to ignore.

Since 2018, Shelter Cymru, Tai Pawb and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru have campaigned for the right to adequate housing. Motivated by the housing crisis here in Wales and the tragic disaster at Grenfell, we believe fundamental reform is necessary to give everyone the home they need, want, and deserve.

The concept of a right to housing is nothing new to us in Wales. The Laws of Hywel Dda, dating from around 1285 C.E., included measures that protected people’s right to a home. But it’s also international in its outlook, with provision laid out in the UN Economic, social and cultural rights. Perhaps, the right to housing is a solution to the housing crisis which reflects the Wales emerging from 20 years of devolution, international in our outlook while increasingly confident of our history and heritage.

The right to adequate housing has been enshrined in countries such as Canada and Finland. Closer to home, there are movements in both Scotland and Ireland to realise this right. And we know people in Wales understand the importance of a good home. Research from Cardiff University and the Chartered Institute of Housing in 2020 identified over 75% of the population supporting a legal right to housing in 2020.

Some may have concerns. Clearly, such a fundamental change to our housing system will require significant investment and some may argue its simply unaffordable. But is this actually the case – does the right to adequate housing add up financially? Can we afford not to do it?

Independent research now says very clearly, “yes!” In the words of Leilani Farha, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, “the fear that this costs too much is unfounded”. Not only is our current system unfair – hence the housing emergency – but continuing to prop it up costs valuable public money.

Undertaken by Alma Economics, using independent HM Treasury guidelines, the research shows incorporating the right to adequate housing in Wales will save money for current and future generations. £11.5bn of benefits will be realised across the public purse and society, against estimated costs of £5 billion over a 30-year period. Public money could be saved by NHS Wales, homelessness could be ended, and our communities made safer by reduced crime.

But while the economic argument now clearly adds up, the right to adequate housing is about much more than this. It is about a systematic and sustained approach to tackling the housing emergency over the long-term. We believe that everyone has the right to a good, suitable home that they can afford. And this can only be achieved by all partners working together, through a consistent and sustainable policy framework.

A right to adequate housing can tackle our housing crisis and in doing so address inequalities that have for too long blighted people’s access to a good home. Better and more homes for disabled people, an end to overcrowding – which we know disproportionately affects ethnic minority groups – and culturally appropriate homes for Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities in a safe and suitable location. It can also help preserve and protect our Welsh speaking communities. These are just come examples of how a right to adequate housing can help.

But we recognise change often brings concerns. This may be over the right being too conceptual or undeliverable, fear of increased litigation or a lack of investment. That’s why we’ve created our five things to know about the right to adequate housing – a short document designed to assuage these fears.

The Co-operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and Labour recognised the potential for change in Wales, by committing to a White Paper on rent controls and a right to adequate housing. In October the Minister for Climate Change announced work on a Green Paper would commence quickly. More recently, the Minister went even further and told the Senedd, “I’m very interested in enshrining a right to adequate housing in this Senedd Term”.

The time for change is now. We “Back the Bill”, will you?

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