Welsh housing organisations welcome committee’s call to recognise ‘due regard’ in legislation

Written by Alicja Zalesinska

The National Assembly for Wales’ Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee has called on the Welsh Government to implement into legislation a ‘due regard’ to the right to adequate housing.

The committee has been scrutinising the Welsh Governments Local Government & Elections (Wales) and published its report today.

Tai Pawb, CIH Cymru and Shelter Cymru have been campaigning for the full incorporation of the Right to Adequate Housing into Welsh law – as set out as outlined in ICESCR (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).

In June 2019 the three organisations, in partnership with Dr Simon Hoffman of Swansea University, published a report entitled, “The Right to Adequate Housing in Wales: Feasibility Study”, which outlined why and how the right could be fully incorporated into Welsh law.

Housing and Local Government Minister, Julie James AM, has previously committed the Welsh Government to a “slide towards” (Equalities, Local Government and Communities Committee on 17 October, 2019), full incorporation. However, she added that local authorities wouldn’t currently be able to meet that statutory requirement at present due to insufficient supply of housing, committing therefore to placing part of the duty – the “Due Regard” – into the bill (See feasibility study for detail of “Due Regard” duty).

The Minister re-iterated that commitment during her statement in Plenary on 19 November, when she introduced the Local Government & Elections (Wales) Bill into the National Assembly for Wales, but outlined that the duty would only go into the statutory guidance and not included on the face of the bill:

“We will be putting that due regard right into the statutory guidance and local authorities will have to abide by it, just for the avoidance of doubt.”

However, the three organisations believe the “Due Regard” element of the Right to Housing should be put on the face of the bill in order for it to have the full impact of its intention, which we outlined to the committee in a letter dated 16 January.

Therefore, we welcome Recommendation 32 of the committee’s report:

“We recommend that the Welsh Government explores options, within legislation, to place a statutory duty on local authorities to have a due regard to the right to adequate housing”

The committee’s report also stated:

“We note the compelling evidence from the housing sector and Dr Simon Hoffman that a duty incorporated into guidance may cause confusion. We therefore believe that placing a duty on local authorities to have a due regard to adequate housing would have a greater impact if placed on the face of this legislation. However, if it is deemed that this Bill is not the appropriate vehicle for achieving that, we would like the Welsh Government to consider an alternative mechanism to implement this duty.”

In a joint statement Alicja Zalesinska (Director, Tai Pawb), John Puzey (Director, Shelter Cymru) and Matt Dicks (Director, CIH Cymru) said:

“We welcome the committee’s recommendation and acknowledgement of the intention and impact that a ‘due regard’ duty would have. This is a positive step towards the full recognition of the right to adequate housing in Wales. 

“Later this year (2020), we will mark the third anniversary of Grenfell Tower tragedy, the image of the burnt out shell, towering high over one of the richest boroughs, of one of the richest cities in the world, must continue to act as a catalyst; a call to action for us all to fundamentally re-think the value we place on social and all housing, and the role that simple bricks and mortar must play in acting as a starting point for any form of community, economic and social regeneration.

“Grenfell has come to symbolise something much more deep-rooted than questions about fire safety and building regulations. For every high-rise tenant living in fear that this could happen to them, there are many more who simply cannot find a home in their community.

 “However, the case for fully incorporating the Right to Adequate Housing into Welsh law should not be informed by the tragedy of Grenfell alone – although that tragedy is reason enough for consideration of what a rights-based approach could deliver. Wales, as the rest of the UK, is in the midst of one of the deepest and far-reaching housing crises that we have seen in modern times. A crisis which is having a profound impact on the very fabric of our society.

“We must address this crisis at its root and we believe that full incorporation of the Right to Adequate Housing will begin to focus minds and resource to providing a sustainable and accessible housing option for all.”

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