Back the Bill: the time for change is now

A couple of weeks ago, the Back the Bill coalition were joined by more than 60 people from inside and out of the housing sector in Cardiff Bay, for the launch of our independent cost-benefit analysis to incorporate the right to adequate housing in Wales.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the economic turmoil of this week will have ramifications for years to come. Questions over public spending are likely to be asked. And in this context, some may argue that the right to adequate housing is unaffordable. Yes, there is popular support for a universal right to a good home, with over 75% of the population supporting a legal right to housing in 2020. But does it add up financially? 

Independent research now says very clearly, yes! In the words of Leilani Farha, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, “the fear that this costs too much is unfounded”. Not only is our current system unfair – hence the housing emergency – but continuing to prop it up costs valuable public money.  

Undertaken by Alma Economics, using independent HM Treasury guidelines, the research shows incorporating the right to adequate housing in Wales will save money for current and future generations. £11.5bn of benefits will be realised across the public purse and society, against estimated costs of £5 billion over a 30-year period. Public money could be saved by NHS Wales, homelessness could be ended, and our communities made safer by reduced crime. 

But while the economic argument now clearly adds up, the right to adequate housing is about much more than this. It’s about a systematic and sustained approach to tackling the housing emergency over the long-term. We believe that everyone has the right to a good, sustainable home that they can afford.  

A right to adequate housing can tackle our housing crisis and in doing so address inequalities that have for too long blighted people’s access to a good home.  Better and more homes for disabled people, an end to overcrowding – which we know disproportionately affects ethnic minority groups – and culturally appropriate homes for Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities in a safe and suitable location.  

But we recognise change often brings concerns. This may be over the right being too conceptual or undeliverable, fear of increased litigation or a lack of investment. That’s why we’ve created our five things to know about the right to adequate housing this week – a short document designed to assuage these fears. 

The Co-operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and Labour recognised the potential for change in Wales, by committing to a White Paper on rent controls and a right to adequate housing. We hope the launch of this independent and authoritative research can help build the evidence base and contribute to this White Paper.  

The time for change is now. We “Back the Bill”, will you?