What does the Welsh election result mean for the sector?
Last week, the people of Wales went to the polls to elect members to the Sixth Senedd. The next day, a three-party system had emerged, with a third of MSs making their debut in the legislature.
Exactly half of the Welsh Parliament will be made up of Labour members – equalling their best ever result. The Conservatives have 16 MSs – their best performance – half of whom were not there before the election. Plaid Cymru increased their cohort by one but fell to third place as their former leader lost her seat.
The Lib Dems lost their only constituency seat as the MS stood down but were compensated as their party leader won a regional seat. All seven UKIP members elected in 2016 lost their seats.
On Wednesday, Mark Drakeford was confirmed as First Minister. The following day, he appointed his cabinet. Julie James, the previous Minister for Housing & Local Government, become the Minister for Climate Change, but housing remains part of her portfolio. She gets a new Deputy in Lee Waters who also has housing as part of his brief.
Conservative Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price are yet to announce re-shuffles for their teams. The parties’ housing spokespeople remain Laura Anne Jones and Delyth Jewell, respectively.
The Welsh PRS
As discussed in our pre-election blog, the parties’ manifestos had different visions for the private rented sector. With Labour looking likely to govern alone, landlords can breathe a sigh of relief that Plaid Cymru’s plans for rent controls and an end of “no-fault” possessions are unlikely to progress.
Welsh Labour were pretty quiet regarding the PRS in their manifesto, referring only to the continuation of rolling out their PRS leasing scheme, whereby landlords let their property via the local authority to house those on their waiting lists. In return, the landlord gets a guaranteed rent (Local Housing Allowance rates, top-sliced for management costs) and maintenance and repairs bills covered. The NRLA is generally supportive of the scheme, currently being trialled in six council areas.
However, as all parties have been sure to focus on climate change, decarbonisation of residential properties will have to be on agenda given the share of emissions they produce. NRLA Wales will make the case that the substantial cost of doing this must be met by government and PRS properties cannot be left out of helpful schemes. We will continue to call for a more comprehensive and more widely available programme in Wales, with current funding streams being limited in several ways.
The NRLA will continue to campaign on all our manifesto calls, particularly our proposals to streamline licensing and a Welsh Housing Survey – the latter of which had already garnered support across three parties – which will be further developed over the year. We will also engage with the Welsh Government to ensure to smooth and informed implementation of the long-awaited Renting Homes Act, which will bring wide-ranging reform to the Welsh PRS affecting possession, model contracts, safety standards, and more.
Finally, the issue of emerging from coronavirus restrictions will be our urgent priority, calling for an end to the possession ban, widening eligibility for the Tenancy Saver Loan, and setting out a timeline out of extended notice periods. Sustainable tenancies must be saved, and unsustainable tenancies must be allowed to end. Landlords and tenants have been ignored throughout the pandemic and there will be consequences if ministers do not immediately give them their attention.