Thursday 14 April 2022

Welsh Labour Won't Give Us Rent Control

John Williams, Cardiff West Socialist Party and TUSC candidate for Plasnewydd ward in Cardiff

Rents are out of control. The average rent for a property in Britain has risen to £969 a month, according to Zoopla. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the average rent has increased by £62 a month. Wales has seen the third-highest increase – 9.8% in the last year. There are over 1,000 empty properties in Cardiff alone, and more than 4,000 homeless people.

Socialist Party Wales supports any genuine attempt to tackle homelessness, and guaranteed fair rents for all. In the Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru agreement last year, after the Welsh Senedd elections, both parties announced a commitment to the principle of rent control. They cautiously posed: “The role a system of fair rents could have in making the private rental market attractive for local people on local incomes”.

However, there are no firm or clear proposals. Landlord organisations are already applying pressure, and the Welsh government is giving landlords time to come up with a strategy to oppose them.


Welsh Labour Senedd members had the chance to show that they were serious in fighting for rent control and to tackle homelessness, by voting in favour of a Plaid Cymru motion to develop legislation for fair rents. The majority abstained. Welsh Labour deputy climate minister Lee Water said: “Labour had abstained because [rent control] is already covered by the budget agreement with Plaid”.

But in the detailed draft budget narrative document sent out by the Welsh government, we’ve seen nothing of the sort. What we have seen though, is the £3.5 million private sector leasing scheme aimed at tackling homelessness.

The scheme offers landlords grants and interest-free loans of up to £10,000. It gives councils the power to run a property, including any repairs, and, in return, the landlord gets guaranteed rent, but only 90% of the local housing allowance rent.

Currently, a puny amount of 24 properties in the whole of Wales are signed up to the scheme. The scheme only works if property owners want to give up income, which clearly they don’t want to do!

During lockdown, for a period, the Welsh government wiped out street homelessness by putting people up in hotel rooms, proof it was always possible to do so. However, it has not been prepared to fight for the funding for this to continue. What’s missing is the political will.

Like local authorities, the Welsh government could pass a needs-based budget, defying Tory imposed austerity. The Senedd could back up Welsh local authorities, overwhelmingly Labour-led, to take the same approach. In doing so, a fighting Welsh government could mobilise the support of the Welsh working class and demand the required funding from Westminster.

This is the approach the Socialist Party in Wales will be campaigning for when our members stand as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in local council elections on 5 May.

Rent control

  • Cardiff City Council already licences landlords; all local authorities could do the same. Fair rent, secure tenancies, safety and decent conditions, as agreed by elected committees of tenants and trade union representatives, could be made a requirement of a licence.
  • Tenants should have the right to rent tribunals, overseen by these committees, to challenge rent levels and unsafe conditions.

Empty homes

  • Councils must use their powers to compulsorily purchase property left empty; to be brought back into council housing stock – to be rented at social rents on secure tenancies.

Council homes

  • A mass building programme of eco-friendly affordable council homes to tackle the housing crisis, under the democratic control of working-class communities, to prevent overcrowding and to ensure the provision of all necessary services including green spaces.

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