David Rowlands, Policy Manager at Tai Pawb, writes in response to Welsh Government’s Green Paper consultation on a right to adequate housing.
You barely need to switch the TV on to hear about the housing crisis here in Wales – whether that’s high rents, lack of homes, houses not fit for human habitation, or increasing numbers of people stuck in B&Bs. It’s clear the housing system is Wales is broken – which is why we need to act now.
Since 2019, the ‘Back the Bill’ coalition has campaigned to incorporate the UN right to adequate housing in Wales, an internationally recognised right, which has helped almost end homelessness in Finland. This is our opportunity to reset our housing system, with a joined-up framework placing human rights at its centre. Doing this means that, over time, everyone will have the right to a good home – one that is safe, secure, suitable for their needs and that they can afford.
MORE THAN A MATTER FOR THE HOUSING SECTOR ALONE
But isn’t this just a matter for the housing sector? While this consultation and campaign is centred around housing, as a voluntary sector we know that a good home isn’t just about housing. Day-to-day, we witness the far-reaching impact of housing on those that we support, each of us with a distinct, invaluable perspective to offer.
How often are the issues we deal with as a sector caused by poor housing, or could have been prevented by better and more suitable homes? Whether that’s family disputes, falls, poor mental and physical health, lower educational outcomes or the difficulties in finding work – just to name a few. The concept of ‘home’ – and a good one, at that – is fundamental to everything else in life.
HOUSING’S MEASURABLE IMPACT
Poor housing costs the NHS £95 million per year in Wales while 18% of Welsh houses pose a risk to their residents’ physical and mental health. At the same time, housing is responsible for 9% of all Greenhouse emissions.
Conversely, there are benefits to a good home for individuals, society, and the environment. Independent cost-benefit analysis has shown that investing in the right to adequate housing in Wales would lead to benefits of £11.5bn over a 30-year period with benefits for individuals’ wellbeing, the NHS, local authorities and the wider economy. The gift of the right to a good home to future generations is immeasurable, and is one way we can act on today, for a better tomorrow.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE
This Green Paper consultation is an opportunity for a once-in-a-generation reform – both to the housing sector but more broadly to the type of society we want. A right to adequate housing can challenge poverty, support decarbonisation, and tackle inequalities for minoritized communities, disabled people and women.
It’s also an opportunity to affirm and build on our rights at a time when rights themselves are at risk. This is a chance to enhance them, recognising a good home as an essential platform for living a happy, healthy and fulfilled life.
HAVING OUR VOICE HEARD
We know landlords will be responding in numbers – and we (rightly) expect constructive challenge around what a right to adequate housing looks like in practice. Given the potential impact of this legislation, it’s important the voluntary sector and those we support are heard to know what this could mean to them. You can do that by either responding directly to the Welsh Government by 15 September 2023 or contacting the Back the Bill coalition to feed into or sign up to their response.
No longer can we tinker around the edges of a framework that’s creaking at the seams. It’s time for fundamental reform that can bring about positive, sustainable change.