Kirstie Allsopp’s advice to people struggling to buy homes is absolutely ridiculous
Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru MS
Today, a rally will be held in Aberystwyth by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, in the same spot where, in 1963, their first protest marked a significant gear change in the movement to keep the Welsh language alive.
That protest in 1963 on Pont Trefechan, significantly changed the way in which people fight for their rights in Wales, and it also made people sit up and listen.
This weekend, is another chance to raise the cry of the communities of Wales. We are in a crisis that affects many Welsh language communities, but also bilingual communities throughout our nation. That is the housing crisis.
The scale of the crisis has reached a critical point. House prices and rental prices are rising exponentially, second homes are hollowing out to communities and local residents can’t afford to rent or buy homes in their own area, particularly young people.
There’s been much discussion in the media of late about how we tackle this crisis. No offence to Kirstie Allsopp, but her suggestion that “it’s about where you can buy, not if you can buy“ is absolutely ridiculous. And as for being able to save up for a house by forfeiting the price of a coffee every now and then, then I’m afraid that either the daughter of the six Baron Hindlip is far removed from the realities that many young people face, or she is paying far too much for her coffee.
We can agree on one aspect – ‘Location, Location, Location’ is vital. But we do differ in that rather than focusing on turning a profit, gaining assets and long term money making possibilities in purchasing a property, my emphasis is affording a place to live that is close to home, close to good jobs and close to decent infrastructure.
People are being priced out of their communities. The speed of growth in house prices in some parts of Wales has seen some prices jump up by a quarter, making first time buying more of a far-off dream than an achievable ambition for many.
According to the latest research from the Principality Building Society the average price for a house in Wales has shot up to £218,783. That would mean almost a £22k deposit, which people simply can’t afford to save for. Even if they could, prices are still going up, and wages are not.
Another aspect of the housing crisis is of course the problem of second homes. The issue was recently summarised perfectly in a video that went viral by Dani Robertson. In it she showed the soulless empty holiday homes in Rhosneigr at tea time on a weekday. She said that the estate of modest family homes “should be alive with the activity of families after school”. But they are not. They are sat empty while people cannot even dream of buying a home in their own community.
For those who have no prospect of getting a mortgage big enough, or the opportunity to buy a home in their own community, rental is pretty much the only option. Renting, of course, brings about its own problems.
Rental prices are also increasing faster in Wales than in most parts other of the UK. At 9.8 percent, Wales’s rent increase is only just beaten by London and Northern Ireland, which each saw increases of more than ten percent. Higher than average rents are adding to the pressure on households already facing a perfect storm of rising bills and squeezes on their income, with annual energy bills expected to jump by around £700 from April.
In the face of all of this – it’s simply not logical to say that skipping the odd latte will change the housing potential of our young people. There needs to be real action. We must protect people’s rights to have a place to live, whether as tenants or buyers in their community, and in their language.
Today’s rally will be a great opportunity to take stock of how far we’ve come, and how much more there is to achieve.
The political pressure that Cymdeithas has put on governments and political parties has proven successful. There is a direct link between their work and the commitments made in Plaid Cymru’s Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government. I look forward to seeing the fruits of that co-operation, and changes that will directly make the housing system fairer in Wales over the course of this Senedd.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.