Opinion

Don’t let the housing emergency divide and conquer

15 Jun 2021 5 minutes Read
Photo by Ev on Unsplash

Rob Simkins, Campaigns Manager at Shelter Cymru

Over the last 12 months, the debate surrounding Wales’s toxic housing market has kicked up a gear, to say the least.

On the surface of it, you might be forgiven for not immediately noticing the common ground between your stereotypical Generation Rent case study – young urban renters stuck paying expensive market rents – and the growing crisis affecting rural Wales, where communities are being priced out of where they’re rooted by second homes and AirBnBs.

However, what both of these groups share is that the people behind the numbers are among the one million people in Wales, who are affected by the housing emergency.

That’s right – one in three people in Wales has been impacted by the housing emergency.

Rough sleeping, hidden homelessness, waiting lists for social homes, people trapped privately renting, rural housing markets where prices are through the roof – these are all symptoms of this wider political pandemic.

Now this is normally the point where the salvos start to fly in the comments section, as to who is ultimately to blame for this rather challenging predicament. Is it Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme, decimating social housing stock but transferring vast amounts of wealth from state to citizen? Is it those lazy millennials who squeal about not being able to scrape together over £10,000 for a deposit to pay their own mortgage instead of someone else’s 2nd, or 3rd? Isn’t it about time they cancelled their Netflix subscriptions, stopped eating so much avocado and forego their excessive coffee habit?

Thankfully for the sake of my own inbox and everyone else’s patience, this man is not about to offer yet another unhelpful take on who gets to stand under the magic money tree and shake it until some mortgage-shaped fruits fall off.

No, what we need to do now is to recognise each other’s very different but equally difficult challenges and work together – as people impacted by the housing emergency – to press for solutions. Because, as we’ve seen first-hand, the symptoms of our sickly system are playing out across the length and breadth of the nation and manifesting themselves differently depending on who they impact.

Huge number

The root causes and thereby the way to make inroads into tackling our shared emergency, are – like our challenges – very much shared:

  • A totally dated, unfit for purpose perception of land, its uses and value;
  • A chronic lack of supply to meet the desperate demand in the housing market, whether that be buying, renting or social lets;
  • A lack of regulation, allowing market forces to run rampant through local communities; and
  • Much of the last five years having been spent wrangling over the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Regardless of what side you took, or how you voted in 2016, it’s impossible to ignore the drain on resources for other vitally important roles of governments across the UK.

While perhaps expectedly, we’d have loved to have seen even more commitments from across the political spectrum on housing during the recent election, the debate around its importance was welcome and much needed. While many of the issues facing our housing sector are perhaps not particularly new, being locked in our homes for a good portion of the year helped to shine a renewed light on the importance of home.

As our Life in Lockdown report shows, not having a good home significantly impacted upon people during the early stages of the Coronavirus crisis. Nearly one in three families with children experienced problems in their home during the pandemic, such as damp, mould, electrical hazards or leaks.

Space was also at a premium, with 10% of all households not having access to enough outdoor space and nearly 80% of people who said they didn’t have enough space said that this had a worsening effect on their mental health.

To us, in Shelter Cymru, no matter where you live and what your challenges are – home is everything. And that’s why we’re calling on the huge number of us affected by the housing emergency to join us in the fight for home.

Duty

We’re moving into a new era: for Shelter Cymru this is our 40th year supporting people up and down Wales in need of support and using people’s stories to campaign for change. We have a new Welsh Government and many new MSs in our Senedd. Societally, we’re cautiously charting the course to recovery from the greatest challenge we’ve faced since the Second World War.

Whatever your challenges, old or young, urban or rural, renting, owning, social tenants – we all have a duty to make our housing system fit for the future.

So join us today, tell us about how the housing emergency has impacted you and let’s work together to end the housing emergency in Wales, once and for all.

Home is everything, fight for it.

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Mr Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
Mr Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
4 months ago

Surely the other cause of the “housing crisis” is the fact that after 100 years of Welsh socialism and 20 years of Labour in power post devolution, Welsh average wages are the lowest in the UK and we have the lowest social mobility in the UK also – maybe we need a bit more capitalism – I dont know if you have noticed but it seems to have worked elsewhere. This article talks about the transfer of wealth from the state to the individual – surely in any other place than the left wing echo chamber of Wales and Nation… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
4 months ago

Are you really comparing Wales to North Korea? This shows you up for being the delusional one if you really think that the governments, societies, politics, economies and cultures of Wales and North Korea are in any way similar. The truth is that the Government of Wales has far more in common with the Government in Westminster than most people care to admit. And of course you’ve got to mention ‘Marxism’ thus confirming that you really have no clue what you’re talking about. Calling the Welsh government ‘Marxist’ is just as inaccurate, lazy and stupid as calling Thatcher a ‘Nazi’… Read more »

Mr Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
Mr Mark Rhydderch-Roberts
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Yes I think Wales shares many characteristics with North Korea. A state that employs almost 70% of the population, a one party state for the last 100 years, oppressive constraints on personal freedom, a cult of the “great leader” Drakeford, minimal social mobility, desperately poor state education, a supine and left wing dominated state media – would you like me to continue? I’m guessing you are one of the state employed cheerleaders of this dismal regime – try running a business or even better get out of Wales a bit more and you will see that increasingly we are an… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
4 months ago

Like I said your analysis is lazy, inaccurate and just plain stupid. “A state that employs almost 70% of the population” – you’re facts are just plain wrong. In Wales the figure is 28.7% compared to 23.1% for England so the figures for England and Wales are not that different from one another and certainly a long way from 70%, a figure you have appear to have just plucked out of thin air (source: Employment in the public and private sectors by Welsh local authority and status (gov.wales)). A one party state – you must be referring to the Labour… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

If you narrow it down to counties the figure of 70% sounds about right for my own county if memory serves. Just because this or that service was privatised does not make it less social…

Last edited 4 months ago by Mab Meirion
Vaughan
Vaughan
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Brilliant and well argued reply

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
4 months ago

Try writing something like that in North Korea and see what happens to you.

Bruce
Bruce
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Owen

And don’t forget we can’t move in Wales because of all those forced labour camps and military parades showing off our ballistic missiles. Plus we’ve got huge gold statues of Mark Drakeford on every street corner and massive portraits of Mark Drakeford on our walls. And lets not forget that our glorious leader Mark Drakeford is himself the grandson of the founder of our great socialist republic and the latest dynastic ruler rather than elected by a democratic process. I think people like Mark Rhydderch-Roberts really need to find out what ‘Marxism’ actually means before they apply it to any… Read more »

Vaughan
Vaughan
4 months ago

“a one party state”?
Wales is not a state so by definition cannot be a “one-party state”
If he means the Senedd ( previously Assembly ) this run in coalition with other parties on three occasions.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
4 months ago

In Wales, farmland is worth £3,500 to maybe £12,000 per acre. By the time the land has planning permission for housing or other development, the same land is worth maybe £1 million per acre, making a plot for building a house in the order of £100,000. The question is; who should get that profit? Right now, its developers and speculators who add no benefit for the end user. Should it be the local authority? Or a housing association, the Welsh government, or the end user who has this gain and could provide some benefit for us.

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