Let Down has combed through all of the party manifestos for policies relating to housing. We originally thought we’d keep it just to the private sector, but hey since we’re already reading them, why not look at social housing too? With more and more social tenants being referred to the private sector, they are becoming ever more closely entwined.

After our review, Let Down recommends which are the best and which are the worst parties for renters to vote for on May 5th. Housing never gets as much attention as it should, especially considering the long-standing crisis we’ve been facing so please, vote for renting!

This is part 1 with the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour.

 

Welsh Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats took on board all of Let Down’s manifesto suggestions, so we particularly like their pledges to empower tenants! They’ve taken a holistic look at the whole sector and have put a lot of thought into how to make it fairer for everyone. They don’t pander to private sector profits and they’re ambitious in their pledges. They don’t quite ban letting agent fees but a schedule of set charges (set in legislation) would drastically bring them down.

Lib Dems Housing 1

Key pledges on Private Housing

  • Build 2,500 ‘Rent-To-Own’ homes, offering a hybrid of paying rent to pay off a mortgage.
  • Commission research that looks at evictions, work with landlords to ensure energy rating targets are met, and work with students’ unions and tenant groups to ensure tenants know their rights.
  • Cap letting agency fees and rent increases
  • Creating a Residential Property Tribunal with the power to act as a housing court. It would deal with rent increase challenges; mediate disputes on fitness for human habitation; succession rights; failure to supply contracts; and discrimination.
  • Provide more information on the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
  • A Help-to Rent-scheme with government-backed tenancy deposit loans for first-time renters.
  • Replace letting agency fees on tenants with a schedule of set charges for specified services.
  • Ensure rent can only increase in line with CPI.
  • Look into a Business Rate category for HMOs, for landlords that have more than 3 properties. This would incentivize improved energy efficiency whilst providing additional income to councils, which in turn can support landlords with energy improvements.
  • A charter setting out obligations for landlords and letting agents under the new registration and licensing process.
  • An independent online resource for tenants and homeowners acting as a one stop advice and information portal.
  • Update the Wales Housing Survey so as to better inform Welsh Government.

Lib Dems Housing 2

Key pledges on Social Housing

  • Build 20,000 affordable homes a year by increasing the Welsh Government’s Social Housing Grant from £35 million to £75 million per year. Will also renovate disused properties for social housing to create extra homes and stimulate the construction sector.
  • Ensure older people have age-appropriate housing, so those who wish to downsize have a better fit for their needs.
  • Ensure all councils have an accessible housing register, so they know where the suitable homes are for disabled people, such as wheelchair accessible and those with staircases that can have stair lifts installed.
  • Maintain Supporting People Funding and Homelessness Prevention.
  • Establish safe houses for LGBT+ victims of abuse or those who face homelessness as a result of being LGBT+.
  • Protect refugee services’ funding and ensure a sustainable funding model for refuge and other independent specialist domestic and sexual violence services.

 

Plaid Cymru

Plaid have great aims but not much detail on how it would be achieved. But boosting private homes to decent standards; restricting rent increases and increasing longer term tenancies are all fantastic things that renters have been calling out for. We particularly note that they want letting agent fees to be better regulated. Their practice is one the main things that irritates and financially costs both tenants and landlords, so this is something very necessary.

Plaid Housing 1

Key pledges on Private Housing

  • Raise the legal requirements for the condition of privately rented homes to ensure that all of a decent standard.
  • Create a new system of restricted rent increases.
  • Establish longer-term, more secure tenancies.
  • Set out the effective regulation of letting agencies to drive out unscrupulous practice, including retaliatory evictions.
  • To abolish letting agency fees, with the fit and proper person test to be extended to letting agents.

Plaid Housing 2

Key pledges on Social Housing

  • 10,000 additional homes to be built every year to meet local and affordable housing needs.
  • A comprehensive programme is proposed to improve energy efficiency of housing in Wales with sustained investment over the next 20 years.
  • Create a National Housing Company to build a new generation of public rental housing in Wales. Local authorities will be expected to agree ambitious new targets, but given flexibility to meet the needs of their areas.
  • Provision made for small-scale developments in rural Wales on ‘exception sites’.

 

Welsh Labour

Labour is very lacking on detail so it’s hard to comment on what they would achieve. Developing fair deposit schemes is something that has already been done really. There are three deposit schemes and they’re not generally the problem, it’s the way landlords and agents release deposits that is long, drawn out and unfair.

Labour Housing 1

Key pledges on Social Housing

  • Support construction of more than 6,000 homes through the Help to Buy scheme.
  • Legislate to end the Right to Buy, giving protection to social housing stock in Wales.
  • Ensure that all social housing reaches the Welsh Housing Quality Standards by 2020.
  • Continue to intervene to end homelessness and to provide safe home environments, especially for young people.
  • Explore options for ending land banking. Labour believes long term partnerships can help deliver the accelerated rate of house-building we need.

Labour Housing 2

Key pledges on Private Housing

  • Challenge the private rented sector to develop consistent and fair deposit schemes.

 

Click here for part 2, with the Welsh Conservatives, the Green Party and UKIP Wales.