Campaigners gather in front of Senedd to call for action on housing crisis
Campaigners have gathered in front of the Senedd to call on the Welsh Government to act on the housing crisis.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s calls include asking for a Property Act to regulate house prices and rent so that they are affordable for people living on local incomes.
Cymdeithas Chair Mabli Siriol, Rhys Tudur of the Hawl i Fyw Adra (Right to Live at Home) campaign and director/producer and former Cardiff City announcer Ali Yassine were among those to address the crowd.
Speaking ahead of the rally, Mabli Siriol Jones said that the problem of unaffordable homes and rents was one that was felt across the country.
“People see the injustice of the housing and planning system in their daily lives, all over the country. It is not right that some have more than one house, while others are homeless,” she said.
“The evidence is clear — be it the people who have to choose between paying for heat or rent; the young people who have to leave their community to be able to afford a home; or the people who see the life of their communities in decline because of luxury second homes that remain vacant for most of the year.
“The free market is at the heart of these Wales-wide problems, which manifest themselves in a variety of ways in our communities. But this is the result of political decisions, and things can be done differently. We have won before, and if we pull together as communities and campaign hard, we will sooner or later see a transformed housing and property system. Together, we have the power.”
The rally follows other Cymdeithas yr Iaith protests in Tryweryn in July this year and in Newport, Pembrokeshire last month.
Ali Yassine added that everyone should have the right to a home in their community.
“But both Westminster and Welsh Governments over the decades have treated housing as a profit-making business rather than simply as homes for people,” he said.
“They have prioritised capital over communities. The consequences have been devastating for the ordinary people of Cardiff, Wales, our communities and the Welsh language – and they are getting worse.
“It does not have to be this way. With the right policy measures, we can secure a home for everyone, and strong, Welsh speaking communities in all parts of the country. ”
One campaigner, Osian Jones, arrived at the rally having cycled 180 miles from Caernarfon.
He plans to hand Mark Drakeford a letter signed by hundreds of community and town councillors across Wales, urging the First Minister to take immediate action.
“We’ve held a rally in Capel Celyn, a village that was lost decades ago, and another rally in Newport in Pembrokeshire, an area threatened by second and holiday homes for years,” said Osian at the start of his journey.
“So this rally will be on the steps of the Senedd, taking the message straight to Government. And I’ll be bringing the clear message from communities across Wales who want action.”
On Thursday it was confirmed that the Senedd’s Local Government and Housing Committee was launching an inquiry into the issue of second homes in Wales.
But acknowledging that the Welsh Government is looking at the issue, the letter urges decision makers to take immediate action.
“These are some of the only communities in the world where Welsh is spoken and used as a community language, and that makes the future of these communities even more important,” it goes on to state.
“As you know (and we thank you for acknowledging that a problem exists), the future of these communities is under real threat due to the numbers of second homes and holiday homes.
“We sincerely hope that you, as our First Minister, and as someone who has fought all your life against social injustice, agree that this kind of situation is completely unacceptable.
“For nearly half a century, there has been a demand for action to manage the housing market and empower local communities to secure homes and a future for their people. For a decade our Senedd has had the power to legislate.
“We ask that you finally use that power to secure justice for our communities – rather than confining yourself to minor reforms of an essentially unjust regime.”
The Welsh Government says it recognises the challenges facing some communities, noting it is building 20,000 new homes and that Wales is the only UK nation which allows councils to charge up to a 100% premium on the council tax of second home owners.
Additional reporting by the local democracy service.