Tag: Housing

The Right to Buy in Wales is changing

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I’m John Griffiths AM (@JGriffithsLab), the Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

John Griffiths AM

About the Abolition of the Right to Buy Bill

On 13 March, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant AM, introduced the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill into the Assembly. The Government’s aim for the proposed law is to protect the supply of social housing in Wales by ending all variations of the Right to Buy and the Right to Acquire.

What do the proposed changes mean?

The Right to Buy to buy for tenants of local authorities and registered landlords would be abolished after a period of at least one year after the introduction of the law. By introducing the proposed law, the Welsh Government’s stated aim is to protect the Welsh stock of social housing from reducing further, ensuring it is available to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for people who are unable to access the housing market to buy or rent a home.

Some local authorities, including Flintshire, Carmarthenshire and Anglesey have already suspended the Right to Buy scheme. The proposed law would end the Right to Buy scheme in all local authorities across Wales.

How could the changes affect me?

In making sure that existing tenants are aware of the changes, the proposed law requires the Welsh Government to publish information on its effects before abolition takes place, and social landlords must also in turn provide that information to every affected tenant within two months of the proposed law coming into force. After a waiting period of at least one year after coming into force, all rights will be abolished. This means every affected tenant can still exercise their Right to Buy within that period, but not after.

The Right to Buy across the UK

The Right to Buy and Associated Rights have already been brought to an end by the Scottish Government in Scotland, but a different approach is being taken in England by the UK Government. The UK Government has introduced its own plans to extend the Right to Buy Policy to more homes.

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The work of the Committee

The National Assembly for Wales’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee is a group of eight Assembly Members from across Wales who reflect the political makeup of the Assembly. Our job is to scrutinise decisions of the Welsh Government on matters within our remit to ensure they are in the best interests of Wales and its communities.

As the subject matter of the proposed law falls within the remit of the Committee, we have been asked to look at its ‘general principles’ or main aims. This is called ‘Stage 1’, and we use this part of the process to hear evidence and prepare a report making recommendations to the Welsh Government for changes to the proposed law if necessary. We have until 7 July to do this.

Getting involved

In May, the Committee intends to hold public engagement sessions across Wales to hear tenants’ views about the proposed law and the implications for them. These views will help inform the Committee’s inquiry alongside the written and oral evidence received.

If you are interested in taking part in these sessions, or would like us to visit, please e-mail celyn.cooper@assembly.wales.

A DialogueApp page has also been set up so that you can have your say on the Bill and share some of your ideas on how the Bill could be improved.

Updates

For all the latest information and developments, you can:

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Chair’s Blog: Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

Some keys

Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee: Stage 1 Committee Report

On 26 June 2015, we published our Stage 1 Report on the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill (PDF 1.39MB). It contains 37 recommendations to the Minister that we believe are needed to strengthen the Bill.

Generally, the evidence we heard showed that there was support for the overall aims of the Bill, particularly in terms of simplifying the existing law about renting. But, we did hear specific concerns about a number of areas in the Bill, and our recommendations to the Minister reflect these.

Amongst other things, our recommendations relate to:

  • the condition of rental properties – i.e. the requirement on a landlord to ensure that the property they are offering for rent is ‘fit for human habitation’ and in a good state of repair;
  • the proposals for 16 or 17 year olds to be able to hold an ‘occupation contract’ (the new term for a tenancy);
  • the proposals allowing landlords to exclude someone with a supported standard contract from their home for up to 48 hours without a court order.

Full details about all our recommendations, including the ones I have referred to above, can be found in our report.

The next step in the Bill’s progress is the Stage 1 debate. This is due to take place on 7 July in the Assembly’s debating chamber, and will involve Members discussing and agreeing whether the Bill proceeds to the next stage of the legislative process.

Keep an eye on #RentingHomesBill for more updates.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

View a short video of the Chair discussing the Committee’s report:

Renting Homes (Wales) Bill: Chair’s blog, 21 May 2015

Christine Chapman, Committee Chair

We have now finished taking oral evidence from witnesses. We are grateful to everyone who has taken the time to assist us in our consideration of the Bill so far – it has been a very interesting process.

In our meeting this week we heard from the Housing Law Practitioners Association. We also questioned the Minister about the Bill for the second and final time. This was an opportunity for us to ask the Minister about the main points that have emerged during our evidence sessions. Finally, we discussed all the evidence we have heard over the course of our inquiry and agreed on the matters to be included in our Stage 1 report. We will now prepare our report, which we will publish by 26 June.

If you missed the meeting or would like to watch it again, you can do so on Senedd.tv:
Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee meeting, 20 May 2015.

Keep an eye on #RentingHomesBill for more updates.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

Chair’s Blog: Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

Christine Chapman in Committee

We are now more than half way through our evidence gathering. We began with a session with the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, as the Member in charge of the Bill, on 22 April. The following week, on 30 April, we heard from the Law Society, Welsh Tenants, the NUS Cymru and Let Down in Wales.

Last week, on 6 May, the Chartered Institute of Housing, Community Housing Cymru, the WLGA, Cymorth Cymru, Tai Pawb and the Residential Property Tribunal came along to our meeting to share their views on the Bill.

This week, we will be hearing from landlord and letting agent representatives, as well as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Citizens Advice Cymru and Shelter Cymru.

Our evidence gathering will conclude on 20 May, when we’ll hear from the Housing Law Practitioners Association, as well as the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty for the second time.

In addition to the oral evidence heard during our formal committee meetings, in coming to a view on the Bill we will also take into account the 41 responses received to the public consultation, and the range of views and comments that were expressed during the stakeholder event held back in March.

Our next meeting is on Thursday 14 May. You can watch it live on Senedd.tv

How to get involved and keep up-to date with the Committee’s work

Guest Blog: Consultation Event to Scrutinise the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

My name is Claire Blakeway and I am the Vice President for the Heath Park Campus at Cardiff University Students’ Union. On Wednesday the 18th of March, I took part in a consultation event to scrutinise the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill. This involved Assembly Members speaking to a wide range of tenants about their experiences of renting properties from the council, housing association and private landlords. Tenants from different rental areas were put into focus groups which were led by Assembly Members. In my focus group, I was representing the tenancy views of students.

On the whole I agreed with ideas of the new Housing Bill but felt that there needed to be more detail around repair agreements. For example, there needs to be a detailed scheduling timeline in the agreement that outlines how quickly landlords should react to acknowledging and working towards resolving a repair that is reported by a tenant. I feel that currently tenants can be waiting a long time before repairs are addressed, and as result of this they are essentially paying to rent a property that isn’t fully to the standard that they originally rented the property out for. By implementing a repair agreement with specific timelines, both landlords and tenants will know exactly what to expect in the case of a repair and landlords can work to complete a repair in a pre-agreed timeline and thus meet the expectations of their tenant.

Here’s Claire being interviewed after the event:

I also fed my ideas into the focus group around how firmer repercussions need to be implemented for landlords and tenants who breach their contracts. The more serious repercussions are, the more likely it is that contracts will be adhered too and respected.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the focus groups, and it was great to hear AM so interested in the views of students. I look forward to seeing the Housing Bill being released, and hope that my views will be taken on board. Thank you to the Welsh Assembly for inviting me along!

The next step is for the Committee to hear what other people think about the Bill in formal meetings at the Senedd. The first of these meetings takes place on Wednesday morning, where the Committee will talk to the Welsh Government Minister responsible for the Bill, Lesley Griffiths AM. You can watch this meeting live on Senedd TV.

More information about the meeting is available here.

#SeneddWrexham blog: It’s been a busy week in Wrexham!

During the last week of March the National Assembly for Wales held its week-long #SeneddWrexham series of events. Here Lowri Lloyd Williams, the North Wales Outreach Manager runs through the week’s events.

National Assembly for Wales bus

Monday 23 March 2015

Launching #SeneddWrexham, we parked the Assembly bus in the town’s Queens Square, where we had a steady stream of visitors during the day.

Mr Pugh was our first visitor, who stopped by on his way to collect milk for his wife, to raise points around transport in the Wrexham area.  He was concerned about the road surfaces as well as the amount of roadworks on the A55 and its effect on the area. Parking charges was also a point Mr Pugh wanted to raise.

Other issues raised on the bus during the day included broadband speed, raising awareness of the Assembly’s work and health related matters, specifically breast cancer services.

Andrew Atkinson and Alex Jones from Wrexham Business Group also came on the bus to raise points about business rates. They left the following video regarding business rates in the town.

We were also visited on the bus by Dr Helen Paterson, Chief Executive of Wrexham Borough Council and John Gallenders, Chief Executive of AVOW (Association of Voluntary Organisations Wrexham) who encouraged their staff to get involved in #SeneddWrexham.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Day two of #SeneddWrexham and the Assembly bus was back in Queens Square, and the people of Wrexham were still making the most of our presence, and coming to see us with plenty of questions, comments and matters to raise.

Health again was a popular topic with waiting times, cross border services and free prescriptions among the matters raised. Members of the public who raised these were encouraged to contact their Assembly Members to discuss further and look at the work the National Assembly for Wales Health and Social Care committee have done recently.

We were delighted to be joined by Welsh Baccalaureate students from St Christopher’s School, Wrexham during the morning.  They were given a short presentation on the National Assembly for Wales and as part of the Votes@16 consultation we had an interesting debate around lowering the voting age to 16. You can find out more about the consultation here.  They also thought that young people should be given more opportunities to learn about politics and that Assembly Members should commit to having young people shadow them.

St. Christophers School

St Christophers School during their visit to the bus.

We were also visited by Lynn Morris and Yvonne McCarroll from Wrexham Tenants Group who wanted to learn about ways that tenants could get involved and have their say on issues that affect them.  As I work for the Outreach team in North Wales this gave me a really good new contact in the Wrexham area that I can contact when working with the Assembly’s Committees on future consultations.

While some of the team were on the Assembly bus, others were at The Wrexham Foyer talking with members of their Breakfast club.   They were interested to hear about who represents them and how they can have their voice heard. They also talked about the voting process and learned about how they can register to vote. Listen to Courtney and Amy talk about it here:

On Tuesday night we visited young people at The Vic in Wrexham to do a session on what the Assembly is, how many Assembly Members they have and what their job is. Other members of the team were with Dynamic Wrexham holding a similar interactive session.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The Assembly’s presence in the center of town for #SeneddWrexham continued on Wednesday with the team setting up a pop-up stand at Contact Wrexham on Lord Street.  People took the opportunity to speak to Assembly staff as they visited Wrexham council for other matters.

We also had a presence at the Info Shop in Wrexham on Wednesday to get young people to complete the Vote@16? Consultation.  We met with some really interesting young people who have strong opinions about the topic.  We spent some time with Lacey, 22, from Wrexham, who is against lowering the voting age as there is not enough education for young people and so they don’t know who to vote for.    We also visited BAWSO during the morning to hold a session explaining the areas effecting their life that the Assembly is responsible for, who represents them and how they can raise issues with the Assembly.

BAWSO Session

Participants during the BAWSO session.

The sessions continued for the team on Wednesday afternoon with the team visiting Welsh Women’s Aid in Wrexham to hold two sessions on understanding and engaging with the Assembly.  It was really interesting session with plenty of discussion points raised. Here’s what Alison Hamlington had to say following the session:

Thursday 26 March 2015

#SeneddWrexham continued to pick up pace on Thursday with activities and events all over the town.

The Assembly was at Coleg Cambria all day where students streamed in to take part in the votes@16 consultation where we wanted to hear what 11-25 year olds think about lowering the voting age to 16. We had over 300 consultation questionnaires completed during the day.

Our website, ‘Your Assembly- your say, your way, will be updated regularly to let you know how the conversation’s developing.

In addition we had a filming station set up in the library of Coleg Cambria, where media students interviewed their peers about lowering the voting age to 16.  The students did all the filming themselves, and discussed other matters too including whether enough information about politics is given to young people and whether voting should be mandatory.  You can see these videos through the playlist

The students staged a ‘Your Assembly takeover’, where their content took over our website aimed at young people for the day. You can view photographs from the day in our Flickr Album.

Over in Glyndwr University during the afternoon, the Assembly’s Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM met with young people from Wrexham to discuss the Assembly’s Vote@16? national conversation. The event was delivered in partnership with Wrexham Senedd yr Ifanc.

We also managed to squeeze in another two understanding and engaging with staff from Wrexham Council and Caia Park Jigsaw group where we were joined by the Assembly’s Deputy Presiding Officer, David Melding AM.

The day ended with a #SeneddWrexham reception hosted by the Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM. It was a successful event with around 70 local people present where we celebrated the work of community champions in the Wrexham area.  To the sound of musicians from Coleg Cambria there was plenty of networking between politicians, leaders of civic and community leaders during the evening.

 

Friday 27 March 2015

The final day of #SeneddWrexham arrived and it was another busy day for the team.

Friday started with our education officers over in Rhosnesni High School where over 150 young people took part in the votes@16? consultation. This was followed by a session with the school council.

Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding AM joined in with the school council meeting where they discussed the issues they had tackled within the school during the past 12 months, including school uniform.

Rhosnesi High School

The school council having their say for votes@16.

After spending the morning on our pop-up stand at Glyndwr University, I spent the afternoon with a group from Hafal in Wrexham delivering the final understanding and engaging workshop of the week.  It was an interactive session with plenty of discussion and we were joined by Aled Roberts AM where he spoke about his role as an Assembly Member.

Hafal Group Presentation

The Hafal group following the presentation.

Meanwhile, over in Glyndwr University members of National Assembly for Wales and Cardiff University staff met with students and hyperlocal bloggers and journalists.  The event was part of the Presiding Officer’s Democratic Deficit initiative, to try and help community journalists around Wales to access information about the Assembly more easily.

The Presiding Officer has pledged to work towards addressing the ‘Democratic Deficit’ caused by large numbers of people in Wales consuming news and current affairs from UK broadcasters and media organisations which often ignore the different public policy landscape in Wales compared to England.

Journalists, including many from the Glyndwr journalism school, had the chance to interview the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM and the Deputy Presiding Officer, David Melding AM. They also attended a press conference style event with Dame Rosemary Butler AM.

We would like to thank everyone who engaged with us during the week for the lovely warm welcome that we had in Wrexham.

It’s was a fantastic week and I know we’ve all had a lot out of the work that we’ve done and hope that you have too.

You can view photographs from the week in our Flickr album .

If you’d like to learn more about the work of the Outreach team in North Wales, then you can contact the Assembly on 0300 200 6565 or contact@assembly.wales.