Plaid Cymru accuse Welsh Government of ‘fiddling while Wales freezes’ on help for renters during cost of living crisis
Plaid Cymru have accused the Welsh Government of “fiddling while Wales freezes” on action to help renters who face eviction from their homes due to the cost of living crisis.
The Scottish Government has already published legislation which could freeze rents and ban evictions for 18 months.
The Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Bill is due to go through Holyrood in just three days this week and last three times longer than first indicated.
Any rent increases issued since the First Minister announced the measure on September 6 will be declared void., much to the consternation of some landlord’s groups who intend to launch legal challenges.
But Plaid Cymru’s housing spokesperson, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, accused the Welsh Government of “dragging their heels” over starting similar “critical work”.
“The Labour Welsh Government is fiddling while Wales freezes,” Mabon ap Gwynfor said. “There’s no sense of urgency, and in the meantime, the cold fingers of winter creep ever closer.
“That work should have been commissioned and completed as soon as possible, and yet we find out that the Welsh Government are still at the stage of gathering evidence.
“Plaid Cymru saw this coming down the tracks and have repeated our calls at every opportunity. Numerous anti-poverty campaigners and charities, including Shelter Cymru have been calling for this. Scottish Government clearly did their work. Meanwhile the Labour Welsh Government has been dragging its heels.
“Time is very short, and Welsh Government urgently need to set out their timetable for when action could be taken, because winter will be on us before we know it.”
‘Push it down the line’
Last week in the Senedd committee for Local Government and Housing, Mabon ap Gwynfor called for a ban on all evictions and for all rents to be frozen until after winter, as has been announced in Scotland.
In response, the Minister responsible for housing, Julie James MS, confirmed she was looking at options and was “actively in contact” with the Scottish Government, however, had not yet reviewed their research.
“I will be very seriously considering what we do for the next financial year here in Wales. I’m expecting advice from my officials about the various impacts,” she said.
“So, just to be clear, obviously we’re very concerned about the effect of rent increases on tenants, but we have to also bear in mind that the rent is what pays for the social house building programme for registered social landlords and councils.
“So, it’s a careful balance, isn’t it, between making sure that people can afford it, that the people in social housing who are entitled to benefit of course get their rent paid, but large numbers of people in social rented housing are not on universal credit or don’t get the full payment. So, it’s about balancing all of that out.
“So, I’ll be looking very carefully at what we want to do with that. But, the rents are frozen, if you want to use that language—they’re set, I would use the language of—until March next year. So, there will be no rent increases over the winter for social rented properties.”
On stopping evictions, she added that it was a “superficially interesting intervention”.
However, she said that “we know, from what we did in the pandemic, that when that came to an end, we had a tsunami of evictions. So, what I don’t want to do is just push it down the line”.
“What we don’t want is to have people, who can’t be evicted over the winter and can’t pay their rent, finding that, in March, they are mandatorily evicted because they’re in eight weeks or more rent arrears, because that’s a mandatory eviction then,” she said.
“So, we need to be very careful that any intervention that we take doesn’t make things worse for people down the line. I’d much rather get them to access help to make their rent affordable than to have people stop paying their rent and then pretty much face an inevitable eviction at the other end of the winter.
“So, we just want to calibrate it.”
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