Senedd votes against rent freeze and ban on winter evictions
The Senedd has voted against a motion calling on the Welsh Government to freeze rents and introduce measures to ban evictions this winter.
The motion, tabled by Plaid Cymru was debated in the chamber on Wednesday afternoon (November 23).
Plaid Cymru said they believed no one in Wales should be put at risk of homelessness as a result of high inflation and a lack of affordable housing stock.
The debate was led by Mabon ap Gwynfor MS who warned that over two thirds of landlords who don’t have a mortgage have been increasing their rents.
He said: “We need a long-term and clear vision in order to tackle the housing crisis. We need to build houses under public ownership on a massive scale, and we need to do so in partnership with new financiers, as they do in the Netherlands on public land.
“We need to look at programmes such as the cost rental schemes in Switzerland and Ireland, and buying back houses into public ownership, as Gwynedd Council is doing.
“But people are looking to us here for a short-term solution to this crisis that they face today.”
Welsh Conservative MS Sam Rowlands said a rent freeze would not deal with the current crisis in Wales.
He said: “The recently introduced rent freeze in Scotland has, according to Zoopla, led to rents north of the border for new lets rising more than anywhere else in the UK.
“If rent trends in Wales followed Scotland, the National Residential Landlords Association estimate Welsh tenants would pay 16 per cent more in rent each month within a decade.
“So, it’s clear to me that that is not the right solution for dealing with the crisis that we are all facing.”
Plaid Cymru’s Sioned Williams MS said a rent freeze could save the Welsh Government money as well as save the dignity of people struggling to pay their rent.
She said: “Our calls to prevent evictions and to freeze rents are one part of the way in which we can help save them from that, save them from the darkness and anxiety of the winter months, by implementing a policy that will save them from the biting cold, save them from the disastrous effect of unaffordable rents and from the nightmare of homelessness.
“This will save costs relating to illness and homelessness for the Government and more importantly, will save the dignity and well-being of some tens of thousands of our citizens. I urge you, for their sake, to support our motion.”
Plaid Cymru MS Peredur Owen Griffiths warned the squeeze on current tenants is relentless.
He said: “A recent survey by the Shelter housing charity has shown that around seven out of 10 mortgage-free landlords have hiked rents on new rental agreements in the past year, despite being unaffected by interest rate rises.
“Zoopla has also estimated that rental affordability in the UK is at its worst for a decade, and increases in rent outstrip wage growth.
“For us as politicians, this emphatically underlines that remaining on the current trajectory with respect to housing policy is simply unconscionable. We need radical alternatives to the status quo before even more people are driven out of the housing sector entirely.”
Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said a rent freeze would cloud the important work the Welsh Government is currently doing.
She said: “I believe rent freezes are an ineffective measure to support anyone during the winter, but can also store up longer-term issues. Compelling rent arrears build-up during a moratorium could lead to a mandatory ground for possession, and damage a household’s ability to find a new home when that moratorium has indeed lifted.
“I just want to be really clear with Members that I do not think these are the solutions for addressing affordability in the private rented sector. The most significant lever that could help ease and address affordability in the private rented sector is uplifting the local housing allowance.
“It is these rates that determine how much housing benefit someone gets, and the fact that they have been frozen for almost four years while rents have increased means the gap between income and rent is unaffordable for far too many.”
The motion was not agreed with 11 MSs voting in favour and 36 against.
Minister for Rural Affairs and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths MS tabled an amendment calling on the UK Government to uplift rates to match the actual cost of rent instead of the Welsh Government implementing a rent freeze.
The motion was agreed with 35 MSs voting in favour and 12 voting against.
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