The Local Government and Housing Committee are currently conducting an inquiry into whether everyone in Wales should have the right to adequate housing enshrined in law. Following our written evidence submission to the Committee, we were invited to answer questions from Members of the Senedd who make up the committee about why we believe a right in law is the way to make sure everyone in Wales has a home fit for their needs (you can watch the committee meeting here).
Putting the right to adequate housing into law means that Welsh Government has an end goal that is protected against changing governments and budget cycles. This means that any government in Wales would have to actively incorporate realising a Wales where everyone has an adequate home into their policy and budget planning.
Crucially, a right to adequate housing is about the homes of individuals, rather than grouping different types of accommodation together, for example council owned properties, or properties in the private rented sector. Wales already has several policies that focus on improving homes, such as the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and the Optimised Retrofit Programme, but these mainly focus on people living in social housing. In reality, we know from both national data and our own experience at Care & Repair that people who live in their own home are much more likely to be living in properties that are unsafe or make getting around them a challenge.
We explained that every day Care & Repair sees older people living in unfit properties that do not meet their needs. Over time, solutions to housing disrepair and accessibility needs have become harder to find. Funding pots have become smaller, whereas demand has increased. Wales has an older population, and thanks to challenges like lockdowns and the cost-of-living crisis, there are increasing numbers of older and vulnerable homeowners who cannot afford to maintain their home. A right to adequate housing would ensure that Welsh Government would have to support older people to ensure their homes are free from hazards.
During our evidence session, we also spoke about why the right should be made into law. We believe that a right to adequate housing will drive forward policy, and provide a way to hold Welsh Government to account for these policies. A good example of this is the case of rights to accessible housing: it has long been acknowledged that there are not enough accessible homes in Wales. The Wales Audit Office predicted by 2025 around 50,000 people aged 65 and above will need housing adaptations per year. At the moment, Wales only has capacity for around 30,000 housing adaptations. The bulk of these are completed by Care & Repair. In fact, last year we delivered 19,144 adaptations, our highest number since 2014. If there was a right to adequate housing in law, the Welsh Government would have a duty to make a plan to tackle unmet accessible housing need and – because it is the law – if this need continues to be unmet, the Welsh Government would have to explain why they were not improving this situation.
The law would mean that some of the biggest challenges facing owner occupiers, like housing accessibility and housing condition, can no longer be pushed under the rug and left with huge policy gaps resulting in these issues going unchecked and unresolved. We support a right to adequate housing in law because this will help us deliver better outcomes for older people living in their own homes across Wales.
Faye Patton, Policy Manager