Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai

Local Government and Housing Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Carolyn Thomas
Jayne Bryant
Joel James
John Griffiths
Mabon ap Gwynfor
Sam Rowlands

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Alicja Zalesinska Tai Pawb
Tai Pawb
Lawrence Newland Alma Economics
Alma Economics
Maria Liapi Alma Economics
Alma Economics
Matt Dicks CIH Cymru
CIH Cymru
Ruth Power Shelter Cymru
Shelter Cymru

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Hunt Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Chloe Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Jonathan Baxter Ymchwilydd
Manon George Clerc
Stephen Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:00.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Okay. Welcome, everyone to this meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. I'd like to welcome all Members; one Member joining us remotely, Carolyn Thomas. A very warm welcome to Carolyn back to the committee. Apart from adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, the usual Standing Orders remain in place for this meeting. Public items are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a record of proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation is available. Are there any declarations of interest by Members? No, no declarations of interest. 

2. Yr Hawl i Gael Tai Digonol - sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
2. The Right to Adequate Housing - evidence session 1

We will move on, then, to item 2, which is our first evidence session on the right to adequate housing, and I'd very much like to welcome our witnesses here this morning: Matthew Dicks, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, Ruth Power, who's chief executive officer of Shelter Cymru, and Alicja Zalesinska, chief executive of Tai Pawb. Welcome to you all. Perhaps I might begin with a general question: why does Wales need a right to adequate housing?

First of all, thank you very much for having us here today. We very much welcome this inquiry. Our three organisations are all part of a campaign, a partnership, called 'Back the Bill', and we have been working together on campaigning and trying to introduce a right to housing in Wales for the past four years.

We started four years ago with a feasibility study by Dr Simon Hoffman of Swansea University, followed by a draft Bill, which I'm sure you'll be familiar with, and, most recently, comprehensive research on the cost-and-benefit analysis of the right to housing.

Perhaps I can start by introducing the concept of a right to adequate housing. The right to adequate housing is an internationally recognised human right, and, most recently, that has been enshrined in the UN covenant on social, economic and cultural rights. It basically enshrines the right to access adequate sustainable housing, a home for everyone that is safe, secure and suitable for their needs. The right to housing frameworks and guidance provided by the UN, as well as the legislation, defines elements of what 'adequate housing' means. It defines 'adequate housing' as housing that is affordable, accessible, habitable, secure, with good access to infrastructure and local resources. And we think that it's a potentially transformative legal framework that we could adopt here in Wales. It not only provides a transformative vision of what housing means; that vision is underpinned by a legal framework, which would help us shift the paradigm of how we view housing and hardwire that into our legislation and policy developments in the future.

At its core, housing as a human right recognises home as central to human dignity, and that is a very important concept. It is a right for everyone to live in security, peace and dignity. And importantly, a right to housing would help us transform the relationship here between rights holders and the Government, so people who are housed are no longer recipients based on their needs, or charity recipients, as the UN rapporteur put it, but rights holders. We think that that new relationship is potentially transformative to our housing system here in Wales. The right to housing asks Governments to make that housing, good housing, a reality in the shortest possible time, with the Government using the maximum of its available resources. It also enshrines into law meaningful involvement of rights holders, recipients of housing. It asks Government to identify and prioritise those who are most vulnerable. It requires appropriate budgeting and resource allocation that is human rights based, co-operation between different parts of government and, importantly, access to justice, redress and accountability for the delivery of the right to housing. Last, but not least, it's recognised across the world by over 60 countries, so, it's part of legislation or constitutions in those countries, where it has been incorporated into domestic legislation, and it is supported by the Welsh public. A poll conducted by our colleagues in the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru through YouGov found that 77 per cent of the Welsh public support the legal right to housing. So, that's by way of a short introduction, and perhaps I'll hand over to my colleagues. 


Yes. So, Alicja has set out, the right to adequate housing is about providing a vision and a legal framework that reflects our moral sense that access to a home is a human right. And I suppose the imperative to act, really, comes from the fact that the status quo is not tolerable. Housing inequalities in Wales are blighting people's lives, they are impacting people's life chances. We know that housing is a really key determinant in terms of people's health, well-being and their life chances and even the length of their life in terms of access to housing.

So, we're in a deepening housing emergency in Wales, so the imperative to act is clearly there. Even prior to the cost-of-living crisis, we undertook a YouGov poll at Shelter Cymru and that identified that one in three people in Wales had issues in terms of their housing—facing significant issues, whether that was around the safety of their housing, the affordability of their housing, the fear of loss of their home, and facing discrimination in accessing a home. And that has an impact as well on people's well-being. Our casework speaks of people who are living in very poor and unsafe conditions. We support over 10,000 households each year across Wales. It also speaks of people who are in bed and breakfast, trying to live their lives while sofa surfing and people who are sleeping in cars and people who are sleeping on pavements. So, the imperative to act is very clearly demonstrated in terms of the people who seek our help. 

The most extreme denial of a right to adequate housing is homelessness. So, there's a continuum, and rough-sleeping is at the furthest extreme, really, of the absence of realisation of that right. The latest Welsh Government figures showed 100-plus people rough-sleeping and over 9,000 people in temporary accommodation. And within that 9,000, we know that 2,700, approximately, of those people were children. So, the impact on people's lives of this continuing bottleneck that is building up in temporary accommodation at the moment, with more people becoming homeless than can be moved on to settled accommodation, is at a significant scale. And our casework would suggest that those figures underestimate the true extent of homelessness, and that not everybody who is in need of help is able to access the help that they require.

Beyond that end of the continuum in terms of homelessness, what we also know is that we've got 89,000 people on housing waiting lists, waiting for social housing in Wales, and that really reflects the legacy of long-term underinvestment in social housing and a lack of social housing stock. And that rebalancing of tenure from social housing to having a greater proportion of people now accommodated in the private rented sector, where rents are typically twice as high as they are in the social housing sector—we know that has contributed to increased housing inequalities. 

So then, looking particularly in the pandemic period onwards at really significant rises in the levels of rents in Wales, outpaced, really, only by the levels of rent rise in London, what we know now about what's happening to both rents and mortgage rates outpacing pay and outpacing benefit rises—what that means is that there are very, very few options for people. So, that stress of homelessness, the impact of overcrowding and people who are having to put their lives on hold, whether that's their family life, their working life, the impact on their education et cetera, that impact is spreading because of the lack of affordable housing options for people in Wales at the moment.

So, what we know is that all of these challenges play out in very different ways in different parts of Wales and in different communities. But what they have in common is that they're symptoms of a wider housing emergency, and there simply aren't enough homes for people that are of decent quality that are suitable for their needs and which people can afford. 

So, beyond that, there are issues around quality as well as access to housing. So, there have been various high-profile tragedies that you'll be aware of in relation to Grenfell, in relation to the case of Awaab Ishak, for example. And they highlight as well that imperative to act in relation to poor housing. The most recent TPAS tenant pulse survey done here in Wales showed that damp and mould are huge issues for social and private rented sector tenants in Wales. Only 40 per cent of tenants who responded to that survey said their home was free from damp and mould, and our case load is showing a rising case load of damp and disrepair cases at present. 

The Welsh housing conditions survey, last done in 2017-18, showed that 18 per cent of the stock had category 1 housing health and safety rating system hazards. That's really significant. That's defined as poor housing in a report that was jointly produced by the BRE Trust, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales. And that same report identified that investing in addressing those issues of poor housing would result in savings to the NHS of £95 million annually, and therefore would pay for itself within six years. 

So, in summary, in terms of why we need a right to adequate housing, it's because we can't afford to leave access to such a fundamental human right as housing to people's ability to compete for scarce resources. Legislating for a right to adequate housing would develop the pace that we need and it would overturn the long legacy that we've had of underinvestment that has left people in the position that they find themselves now, unable to afford a good home. And it will develop that long term, system-wide driver and develop and deliver a road map for how we get from where we are now, which is a position where I think it would be hard to find anybody who wouldn't agree that the system is broken, to where we all aspire to be, which is in a Wales where everybody has access to a good home. This is about providing that road map; it's about driving the delivery of that road map.

So, it's not just the right thing to do morally as well—that moral case is strong and is widely supported—the cost-benefit analysis that we commissioned, an independent cost-benefit analysis, which I understand you'll hear more about today, shows that it's also good for the public purse, and it helps to deliver on a wide range of priorities that we have here in Wales that really go to the heart of who we are as a nation in terms of social justice, in terms of equalities. There is no social justice without housing justice. So, it's very fundamental, I think, to who we are and what we seek to achieve, but it provides us with the road map and the driver and the long-term thinking, critically, that we need to get us there. 


Only quickly to add, Chair, that it can't be a more pertinent morning to be discussing this, when we consider what the hundreds and thousands of souls across the country who were sleeping in doorways and under railway sidings last night had to put up with in terms of the weather that they're experiencing and the conditions they're experiencing. And at the moment, there is no fundamental legal route for them to challenge that specific environment they find themselves in and why the state isn't providing them with that fundamental human right. So, just to say that, really.

Okay. Well, thank you all very much. It's very useful, I think, to have that general introduction, and you've covered quite a lot of ground and we'll be coming back to much of that in questions through this session. Could I just ask—? I guess people will think very much of the private rented sector and registered social landlords when they're thinking about the impact and the applicability of a right, but obviously it would have impacts on private ownership as well. Do you want to say a little bit about that, just to give us a rounded picture?

Do you want me to start on that? 'Yes' is the simple answer to that, but the whole point is you use the rights-based approach as an umbrella—the rucksack analogy we're using—that you pull all of these bits in together to get to the promised land of a right to adequate housing. And it's not just about housing policy. It's about other policies drawing in from other portfolios, because, at the end of the day, a decent place to call home has an effect on your health, your economic opportunities, your educational attainment. So, it's about providing an adequate housing option in all tenures, but what it will do is rebalance, refocus and push housing up the priority list, pulling all those policy levers in, because we do have a track record of a progressive and ambitious policy around housing: the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. But what this does is make everything look through the prism of a right to adequate housing, so it will invest money and longer, medium term, into where different tenures, we think, need to be developed, in order to balance that housing system.

The problem at the moment is we have a lot of imbalance in the housing system in terms of tenure. Fundamentally, there's a lack of supply of social and affordable housing, which means we're having to rely on the PRS more in order to discharge the business of homelessness, but that said, we need the PRS to play a role in addressing the housing crisis and in addressing housing need. But what it fundamentally does is balance the system so that we get to a place where everyone has that test of adequacy in their housing options. Now, for some, that may be social housing; for some, that may be private rented sector; and options around home ownership, et cetera. So, it's about balancing that system, and ultimately that right to an adequate home should apply no matter what tenure you're living in. But in order to get there, it's going to need the will of the polity in order to invest. Legislation alone is not going to develop that, and we'll come onto that in terms of the international evidence. It needs political will as well as the right to adequate housing. But what the right to adequate housing does is it focuses minds, it focuses the policy objectives across all policy areas, cementing housing at the centre of addressing all those social issues that we face.


One aspect, of course, of adequate housing is safety, isn't it? You mentioned Grenfell Tower, and there are various blocks of flats and people living there, some of them owning rights to their properties, others not. So, that would be one aspect of its applicability, I guess, wouldn't it? That situation that many find themselves in of just not having safe housing at the moment and not being able to be comfortable in their homes as a result.

One of the comments that was made by a lawyer at the Grenfell inquiry was that only an enforceable right to adequate housing would have guaranteed the residents the ability to take their concerns to court, have their questions answered and have the dangerous cladding removed. So, it is very specifically identified in that inquiry.

Tragically, Grenfell is an illustration, I think, of how the housing crisis, the housing emergency, is connected to inequality and social injustice. About 85 per cent of tenants in that building were from ethnic minorities. About 41 per cent of tenants were disabled. I think any inequality in housing drives wider inequalities and vice versa, and here, I think, we could see the most tragic, tragic symptom and illustration of that.

Yes, okay. Thank you very much. Could you also tell committee how you would see the right interacting with existing housing legislation in Wales, how it would complement and strengthen the existing legislation?

Thanks, Chair. I kind of started addressing that, in terms of this rucksack analogy. There is a myriad of issues resulting from the housing crisis—the homelessness, affordability, suitability of accommodation, security of tenure, et cetera—but there are also the other issues about economic opportunities and educational standards. So, what it does is it brings all these policy elements together into a rucksack, for the purpose of an analogy, so we can bring them all together and that they're all working in the same direction to get to that place. Whilst we've got a progressive approach, or had a progressive approach to housing policy and legislation, we haven't looked at it through the prism of a fundamental human right, so there is no legal recourse for individuals to address that and ask why they haven't been given that right.

So, it's the overarching framework that sits above everything—that universality that everyone can look to and address, and all policy makers at all levels can look to. And it also provides protection for existing legislation should Governments change and different priorities, et cetera. So, it embeds that approach, and that view about housing being a right. So, it provides that holistic starting point, from which all that policy and legislation needs to flow. It says there is a universal right, so, any policy that we develop from now on needs to have that in mind. So, it ties into the future generations approach as well very much.

It challenges legislative policy and cultural blockers, not least what we've just been talking about in terms of Grenfell. One of the big things that came out of Grenfell was that tenants were saying about these fire risks constantly for a number of years, and nothing was done. So, it's not just about building safety and building standards; it's also about the professionalism, et cetera, of housing organisations in responding to that, and that's something that came out in the tragic case in Rochdale as well.

It will also require a greater focus on what it would take to enable us to move to this universality of adequate housing. So, it will focus policy makers in terms of how much is needed to invest; long-term plans about how many homes we need to build; what types of homes we need to build; how accessible they need to be; building safety issues, et cetera, not just in terms of bricks and mortar, but also in terms of the support services needed, because we can have all the homes we want, but if we're putting people in with needs that aren't being met, in terms of the other services provided through the state, then tenancies end, and we're back to square one.

So, it's about bringing all of that together under the banner of the rights-based approach, to give everyone that sort of adequate and suitable home. So, it's the umbrella. I'm mixing metaphors and analogies here—choose your favourite one—but that's what it does. It says that it's a universal right, and we need to do all of these things, but we need to look at them in a holistic manner.


Okay, thank you very much. Alicja, you mentioned other countries that have this right and have incorporated this right. What do you think Wales can learn from those other countries, and would you direct us towards any in particular, in terms of good practice?

Yes, of course. And part of our research commissioned to Alma Economics looked at that, looked at examples across the world, including Europe. So, countries like Canada, Finland, South Africa to some extent, Spain and France, they have all incorporated the right to adequate housing. Closer to home, Scotland is on the path to incorporate it very soon—they're drafting their legislation as we speak—alongside other socioeconomic rights, and, as we understand, there's going to be a referendum in Ireland on the right to adequate housing, amongst other issues. 

I think what we found when we looked at other countries is that there isn't really a country that kind of deserves a gold medal for how the right to housing has been incorporated, but there is much to learn. And the reasons for the differences in how it has been implemented, and the effectiveness of this, is the differences in democratic systems, political situations and circumstances, be they economic, political or demographic, really. But we can definitely learn something, especially where they have stronger laws and stronger accountability mechanisms. So, there is an opportunity here for Wales to really lead the way on how it introduces and recognises the right to adequate housing. 

So, without going into too much detail on the vastly different ways in which the right to housing is recognised in different countries and implemented, there are some key lessons that we can learn from those countries.

Lesson one is around progressive realisation. So, that is a core tenet of right to housing legislation. It recognises that not everybody can be provided with a good home immediately, but it is a long-term and sustained process. In Scotland, most recently, a taskforce looking at this commissioned a report from the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, which looked in detail at progressive realisation, and established key principles of it. This includes establishing so-called minimum core rights, and that is part of a legislative requirement around a right to adequate housing. So, these are rights and standards that are immediately available to people. Appropriate resources, monitoring of implementation and effective enforcement, these are all elements mentioned in that report. In Canada, four to five years ago I think, they introduced legislation on the right to adequate housing, and they again looked at progressive realisation in detail. They have established a national housing council that oversees the progress of that realisation of that right and promotes the right.

The second lesson is around governance—widely understood governance mechanisms. These are extremely important. What we found is that, for example, in France and in Spain, these were weaker, and that can include legislative mechanisms, accountability, scrutiny from ombudspeople and so on. In Finland, that mechanism is very strong, and they have had great progress with reducing homelessness and providing better housing for everyone, in terms of the right to housing. They have a constitutional law committee that looks at every piece of legislation and considers the right to housing. Canada also has independent bodies that monitor the progress. So, they have established a federal housing advocate, and that is an institution that promotes and protects housing rights. They consult with what they call 'vulnerable groups', and they receive submissions as well from communities affected by systemic issues. So, they have quite a lot of power to challenge the Government on policy and legislation.

And the third lesson, last but not least, is increasing supply, but I'm sure I don't have to talk about it. Matt and Ruth have covered that pretty well. There is a lot more detail to all of this and there's much more that we can learn from different countries. But if we take these lessons, we believe that Wales can indeed be a world leader in housing rights.


Just to briefly add to that, we start from an interesting place in Wales because we're recognised and have a track record for being quite progressive and ambitious in our approach to housing and homelessness. But what we lack at the moment is that long-term vision about how we're going to get from A to B over a period of time, from the broken housing system we're in to the system that we aspire to where people have good access to housing. And I think Finland provides really important inspiration there. So, 20 years plus ago they embedded the right to adequate homes in their constitution, as Alicja said, and they are now on track to end homelessness by 2027. They've made sustained progress. So, it really emphasises to me the importance of the decisions that we make today and the choices that we have about the legacy that we leave. So, we're currently dealing with the legacy of long-term underinvestment. We have an enormous opportunity with the commitment at the moment to the White Paper on the right to adequate housing to move forward and create a legacy for the future that will see its benefits in the years to come for future generations.

Yes, okay, thank you very much. In Scotland, they're talking about a comprehensive audit, aren't they, of existing legislation on housing and homelessness. Is that something that would necessarily be part of the process in Wales, do you think?

I suppose what the process would be, really, if the right to adequate housing is enacted, is it would be a process of just looking at everything through the lens of housing as a human right. That would transform the way that we think about housing, and it would reinforce some of what we would consider a good direction of travel in terms of ending priority need, for example. It would move us from a system that is currently organised, in terms of homelessness, to gatekeep access to a scarce resource, and it would move us from a system requiring people to jump through hoops in order to access housing to just accepting that housing is a human right. And that would fundamentally change the way that we view our citizens and their need for help in accessing housing, and our responsibilities to provide help to them in accessing housing. And, I hope that it would move us away from a system where judgments were made in that regard, and it would call into question discrimination, but also views and judgments that stop people, for example, being able to access social housing, perhaps because they fell into difficulty and have arrears that they've been unable to pay off. So, it would make us look at things like our allocations policies and whether we were embedding in our policies judgments about who's deserving of housing and who isn't, rather than considering it as a human right, and how do we enable people to both find and keep a home.

One of the other areas I think it's significant for is that it would make us think more about what support is necessary. So, things like the role of housing support grant-funded services, things like Housing First, which have an evidence base in terms of helping people to keep and maintain a home, actually, would become really important considerations in terms of how we are using what the evidence tells us about what enables people to find and keep a home. So, it would just drive a review, using a new human rights lens, and I think one of the benefits of it, coming back to the question you raised earlier about the impact on tenure, the right to adequate housing, it focuses on that human right, it sees everything through that lens. It doesn't see it through the lens of the landlord; it doesn't seek to undermine landlords in the private sector, for example. What it seeks to do is say, 'There are many ways we could achieve a right to adequate housing in Wales. Those are policy choices for Government, but that right sets out in standards what we believe we should achieve', and it helps us to step back from the distraction of housing being commodified and refocus on homes being really fundamental to a healthy, well, prosperous Wales.


Yes. At a very simply level, it kind of brings us on to that question that you're probably going to come on to about what specific actions and policies would be needed if you were going to implement it, and the data side of things is fundamental. So, that's what a legislative full right will do. I mean, from day one, the Government will have to bring forward and outline how it's going to get us to that progressively realised right to adequate housing, and obviously, we're going to need to pull in the data to understand where the expenditure, where the focus, et cetera, is going to need to be, and whether we need to bring forward legislation. That data has been an issue in the housing sector over many years in terms of understanding the state of our stock and understanding numbers, et cetera, and the experience of certain groups and housing outcomes. So, yes, data is going to be key to that, but that will be enshrined in the legislation. So, it's a chicken-and-egg situation, really—that the legislation in the rights-based prism will bring that forward, because the Government will have to demonstrate how it will achieve that.

Thank you very much. That does bring us on to further questions. Sam Rowlands. Sam.

Thanks, Chairman. Thank you for your time this morning. I appreciate you coming in to the Senedd.

I think it's been a really interesting discussion so far, and the thing that's floating around my head a little bit is that, having the legislation in place as a piece of paper, there's a risk that that doesn't guarantee the things that you'd want to see guaranteed, because the examples you gave where there is similar legislation in place, like in France, there are 300,000 people homeless in France whilst the legislation is in place; in Canada, there are 30,000 people who are currently homeless. You mentioned Finland, of course, they are moving in the right sort of direction—I think there are around 5,000 people who are currently homeless in Finland. You also mentioned the progressive way in which Government has done things here in Wales, but we are still seeing, as you said yourselves, 9,000 people homeless here in Wales. So, perhaps part of my concern about what's been discussed so far is that it's all well and good putting a piece of paper in place with legislation with nice words on it, but, coming back to some of your points that you mentioned just then, it's about action and delivery. So, what, then, practical changes do we need to see if this type of legislation is going to become a reality, rather than just another piece of paper? Perhaps, in France, where there are 300,000 people homeless, perhaps they haven't got the actions right to deliver on the legislation in the same sort of way.

And the second point there, I suppose, is in what sort of timescale are we talking about to see that change take place? Because, in my view, at the moment, it's much more of a cultural issue; data is all well and good, it's great, but if there's not an attitude change to this at the most senior level in Government to see housing as being so fundamental, then no matter what piece of paper gets produced, we perhaps don't see any change. So, any responses to that?


If I could start on that, I think on the cultural change, to some extent, legislation can drive cultural change, and, again, in Finland, I remember a conversation we all had with the former UN rapporteur on the right to housing, and we were talking about the different countries that she has visited in the course of her work, and on Finland specifically, when we were talking about culture, the thought was that the legislation has driven a completely different understanding of what housing is and how it is perceived. I think because we have those scarce resources and we don't see housing as a human right and it is not in legislation, I think, quite often, we have a situation where people are seen as deserving or non-deserving of that right. That is not the case in Finland; whatever your situation is, you are deserving of the right, and homelessness is just a big no.

What the legislation would do is to help mobilise resources through a number of mechanisms related to accountability, and potentially redress, and that does mobilise resources and action. It does require the Government to enact it in the shortest possible time, something that we have referred to. So, it is like setting a goal and working backwards from it—careful examination of hurdles and barriers and so on and a targeted and costed plan. The Government would have to report on their compliance with the right to adequate housing and with how that realisation is going over time. That would have to be justified; any regression would have to be justified as well.

And I suppose the pace of it is—you rightly said—reliant on a number of factors: the scale of the change needed; the resources that we have; and whether we are able and willing to invest upfront, to make this transformative change. However, it doesn't mean that the Government can make those plans that go on forever and we see a repeat, perhaps, of what's happened in the past. There are certain standards that they need to adhere to, and accountability mechanisms, including Senedd Cymru. And some of these standards include setting out the minimum core, which I've mentioned already; non-discrimination from the outset; prioritisation of those most in need; and using maximum available resources, and that concept can be perceived as somewhat nebulous, really. But there's a whole raft of international case law and guidance that provides a whole framework within which maximum available resources can be perceived and monitored, in fact, and used.

As an example of how the use of resources, perhaps, can be measured, there's a system called OPERA system, and that's outcomes, policy, effort, resources and assessment of the policy effort and effectiveness. And this is a system that has been used across the world to facilitate human rights investigations of specific countries and to facilitate assessment of human rights compliance, including the right to adequate housing. In South Africa, where we had a seminal case on the right to housing that informed what Governments do across the world, which recognised the right to housing, it provides a comprehensive measurement in comparison, across the countries, on how they're doing. There's a human rights measurement initiative, which is an international system that uses a series of indicators to measure and benchmark effectiveness of implementing and implementation of social rights, including housing, taking into account what is possible, considering the level of income in a given country. So, they call it an 'income-adjusted benchmark'. There are loads of mechanisms to make that work in practice. And I think what we proposed in our draft Bill are two types of duty: one is a due regard duty—something that we are very familiar with here in Wales, for example, the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure introduced a convention on the rights of the child in that way to Welsh law—but also, a compliance duty. So, that's the ability, well, the requirement, for the Government to actually comply with the law. And the system around how that works is similar to the Human Rights Act 1998—so, actions, decisions, or non-decisions and non-actions, of the Government could be seen as non-compliant with the right to adequate housing, and individuals, institutions could challenge the system. And I think that that does mobilise thinking, and there is evidence that that does mobilise proactive policy implementation, on a practical level.


Just to make one point, the international comparisons that we've used, in most of those countries, the right to adequate housing has only been implemented relatively recently—Finland probably being an exception. So, that's the whole point: this isn't going to happen over night; we're not going to get to 2025 and everyone's going to have the adequate home that they need—it's a progressively realised process, over a long period. It could be shorter, it could be longer, depending on how much we're prepared to invest and do around it.

So, I don't think that we can necessarily draw on the international comparisons in terms of the time frame, and there are obviously things that we can learn from those international comparisons that we can implement here and do differently. But, ultimately, I'd say it is a piece of paper, it needs the will of the politicians and the decision makers, but we are signatories to the international covenant, so why don't we use it and develop housing policy in that cohesive and underneath that umbrella of a rights-based prism? Because, ultimately, we have, like you say, 9,000 people living in temporary accommodation, and we had hundreds of people out on the streets last night in this weather. So, it's kind of, 'Why not look at it in terms of how it can help us deliver and frame housing policy more widely?' And we'll come on to the cost benefits in a moment, but it actually makes economic sense as well.

Thanks for the responses—really appreciate that. And then the other question from myself, I guess, is in relation to welfare benefits, which are not devolved here in Wales. I'm wondering what sort of impact that may have on the ability to deliver what we want to see delivered here today.

It's certainly relevant and it's certainly a challenge. So, I think that we are mindful of that challenge, but that's the context that we're operating in currently. This is about long-term thinking, so, in the future, that context could change. So, certainly, we've got real concerns about the large number of households—we've got around 233,000 households in Wales on universal credit, and about 162,000 on legacy benefits. And we reckon that works out, based on the Office for National Statistics figures, as around 30 per cent of households in Wales reliant on Government for part of their income. So, that gives you a sense of the scale of the challenge. I'm sure that many of you will be familiar with the work of the Bevan Foundation in relation to the local housing allowance and its inadequacy in terms of the actual cost of renting a home across Wales today. So, yes, absolutely, that has issues. And I suppose that what we are doing is also focusing on Welsh Government where Welsh Government has the devolved powers, and that, I suppose, is all we can do, is work within the current context, with our eyes on the prize of moving closer towards being in a Wales where everyone has the right to an adequate home.

So, it does mean that social housing has got a really important role to play, because that gap with LHAs is really felt acutely by private sector tenants. So it means that large-scale provision of social homes—via building, via acquisitions, et cetera—is really important, because, actually, yes, the ability to afford a home is fundamentally linked to the benefits system for the numbers of people that I described. So, yes, it is absolutely really important, but I think that we shouldn't see that as a reason not to act. It's part of the range of challenges that need to be navigated, in getting from where we are now to where we want to be, but it's certainly not a reason not to act. And I suppose what we have seen in the past is some flexible financial support being provided by Welsh Government to prevent homelessness, for example, and it does mean that those kinds of initiatives have got an important role to play now and until we solve the problems that we have in terms of our broken housing system. 


Diolch, Cadeirydd. You touched on the importance of supply, really. Perhaps you could say how important the role of supply is—you know, how many houses we have—and perhaps think about those countries that you've touched on, whether it's Finland, Canada or South Africa, and how they've managed to perhaps overcome some of their challenges with supply. 

It's fundamental to achieving the right to adequate housing, but it's not just about the numbers; it's about building the right types of homes in the right places. Accessibility is one important thing in terms of sustainability and affordability. So, it is about increasing the numbers. We've been talking about 9,000 people in temporary accommodation, and one of the biggest barriers at the moment to that is there's not enough move-on accommodation and permanent accommodation in terms of one-bed, because the vast majority of people in that temporary accommodation are either single people or couples without children. Again, this is how it all comes together—there's not enough supply of one-bed accommodation to house them in, and welfare rules around shared accommodation rates, local housing allowance cap, bedroom tax means that you can't discharge that duty for couples into two-bed accommodation, et cetera, because there'll be an extra increase. 

So, it is about supply, fundamentally. A large proportion of the reason why we're in this situation with the housing crisis is a historic undersupply of social and affordable housing, in particular. With the cost-benefit analysis that we'll be coming on to, one of the big expenditure elements of that is around increasing supply, and we've got the 20,000 additional target at the moment. The cost-benefit analysis estimates an additional 20,000 social housing on top of that existing 20,000 target over the period of progressive realisation. 

The right to adequate housing and the draft Bill we've created is agnostic in terms of where the additional housing supply is drawn from, but security and affordability are important considerations. So, building social homes is a key part of that. Political will, again, which we've talked about—. So, in terms of the experiences from other countries, Finland has it in their constitution, but it's the political will that's come underneath that in order to address homelessness, and build enough homes and the housing first approach, which they've made a good fist of and it's really impacting on homelessness figures. 

And it's also about, in terms of that supply, the wider elements of understanding the skills and workforce capacity in delivering that, understanding the supply chain capacity in delivering that, because one of the biggest barriers to house building at the moment is the inflationary pressures we're experiencing and the impacts those are having on building and supply chains. So, it is about supply, but, ultimately, there's no point building all these homes and putting people in tenancies, et cetera, if they can't sustain those tenancies. So, it's as much about housing support services as well. 

It's interesting, the debate we've been having around the budget round, where we've been talking about increasing the housing support grant and how much is being spent on developing new homes, how much is being spent on retrofit and bringing up houses so that they're not fuel poor. That's what the right to adequate housing does—it brings all that together into that one rucksack again, with supply being a fundamental element of that in the first instance. 

Could I just come in there as well, just, I suppose, to say that this point about numbers, really, is moving us away from the idea that we just count the number of homes built, and that's some kind of trophy. Actually, the question is: have we met the need? And it brings us back all the time to a right to adequate housing—have we met the need? Did the homes that we built meet the needs that we have? And until we've met the needs that we have, we are still working towards progressively realising that right to adequate housing. And we're still in a position where, yes, political will for delivery was absolutely vital, and the legislation and the governance around it provides for greater accountability, but also the political will to hold government to account is absolutely vital. So, yes—was the need met? We just need to change our litmus test. It's not about numbers; it's about have we met the need.


I think that's interesting, around progressive realisation, because, obviously, now people like you are talking about people who are struggling through the night, feeling that this is something—the right to adequate housing—that feels quite distant from some people at the moment. So, I suppose that would be a challenge, to communicate with people over a period of time about that progressive realisation.

I was just wondering—[Interruption.] Yes. 

Gan gymryd beth mae Ruth newydd ddweud rŵan am niferoedd, ond o ystyried yr hyn oedd Matt wedi'i ddweud am yr angen am dai un llofft, a'r ffaith nad oes gennym ni ddigon, mewn gwirionedd, o dai yn y sector yna, ydych chi'n meddwl bod rhywbeth fel tai modiwlar—? Rydyn ni wedi clywed mewn tystiolaeth mewn ymchwiliad blaenorol am yr angen am dai modiwlar. Ydy tai modiwlar yn rhyw ffordd sydyn, da i ddarparu tai o ansawdd yn defnyddio dulliau adeiladu modern? Ydych chi'n meddwl bod hynny'n un ffordd i fynd a chyfarch yr angen?

Taking what Ruth has just said now regarding numbers, and given what Matt had said about the need for one-bedroomed properties, and the fact that we don't have enough houses in that sector, do you think that something like modular housing—? We've heard in evidence in a previous inquiry about the need for modular housing. Are modular houses a good and quick answer to providing quality housing using modern building methods? Do you think that's one way of addressing the need?

Yes, certainly, and the sector is currently doing a lot of that. The innovative housing programme is investing lots of money into that, and modular housing, off-site manufacture is about building airtight EPC A, net-zero housing so that it's better environmentally, but what that means is that it's better in terms of fuel efficiency and energy. So, that's addressing all of these issues around cost of living. One of the biggest drivers of the cost-of-living crisis, if not the biggest driver, is, obviously, energy prices, but also coupled with that is the number of people living in fuel-poor homes, which means they pay far more for their energy than perhaps they should do. So, a big part of the cost-benefit analysis in terms of the savings made is building those net-zero homes so that you're providing that fuel efficiency, but, obviously, that brings with it better health outcomes, and better health outcomes bring lots of other benefits around educational attainment, around economic attainment, et cetera. So, yes, that's a huge part of it, and that's why retrofit is a huge part of it as well in terms of analysing the benefit of creating an adequate home in terms of that fuel efficiency and health. So, yes, it's central to that. 

If I could add to that, I think there's also something about the right to adequate housing in terms of guiding principles, really, because I suppose what it helps you do is to assess whether a solution is helpful or not, and I suppose part of the assessment of that solution would be what the standards are that relate to the quality of the build, where they going are to be located, does that meet the needs of people, are they of the right size, and, again, are we matching demand with supply and need with supply. So, actually, the right to adequate housing is really helpful in terms of sometimes having to step back and just say, 'These are the guiding principles, actually', and actually we can deliver that in many different ways. But the right to adequate housing isn't a runaway train because it doesn't take away the policy choices the Government can make. 

And the Government is already doing this. It's focused in on retrofit of the social housing sector, it's focused in on standards of new build, et cetera, that meet all these standards. So, there are elements that are already being implemented. I suppose the question we're asking is, okay, that's happening, but how do we cement that in the thinking of decision makers now and in the future and beyond.

Just on the point about the implementation or incorporating the right to adequate housing into law, what do you think the way—? Is there any other way of putting this into law? Have you looked at any other options, rather than the way that you've suggested and Back the Bill?

I think, internationally, we've looked at a number of options in the first research into feasibility of incorporation that we did with Dr Simon Hoffman, and that is based on his expertise in international law and how rights are incorporated into law, how they work, and also the assessment of how, perhaps, the children and young persons Measure has worked here, and how rights have worked in Scotland. Much research has gone into it in Scotland as well. So, we looked at two simplistic but key ways of incorporating the right to housing, which I've touched upon already. One is direct, so it simply becomes part of the law, it's literally translated into Welsh law, and the human right is binding on the Government, and individuals and institutions can seek redress. An example of this is the Human Rights Act, and you'll be very familiar with it, where laws, decisions and legislation can be deemed incompatible with the law. And then indirect, where the treaty that we're talking about in this case is given some legal effect, and so they're not totally binding on the Government, but the Government, local authorities or whatever other institutions we choose to include in the legislation have to take them into account when making decisions, and the children's Measure is the example.

So, when we looked at models of incorporation, we looked at the advantages and disadvantages of different models. Indirect incorporation can be introduced through a due regard duty, and we're very familiar with that in Wales. It enables the Government to strike a balance, really, between competing policy priorities, taking account of the need, the resources and long-term planning. It is a proactive approach to policy implementation, and there are specific mechanisms to, perhaps, introduce a right to housing and pay that due regard, like, for example, a human rights-based housing strategy, that long-term plan, human rights-based budget assessment tools, impact assessment tools and accountability mechanisms at different levels from the front line and complaints systems through ombudsman up to courts, and compliance reporting as well. The advantage of indirect incorporation is it enables you to try and get it right the first time, from the start, and be proactive about it and develop policy that would reduce the possibility of the breach of the right. However, enforcement with this model of incorporation is viewed to be weak, because if a decision or a policy is challenged, you look at the process rather than the outcome under the process—so, has due regard been paid?

The other model, direct incorporation, is stronger. It asks Ministers, for example, not to act in a manner that is incompatible with the right to housing, and it does enable individuals and institutions to claim breach of the right to housing. It is a much stronger enforcement mechanism because it looks at process and outcome of decisions. However, it is not focused on avoiding the violation of the right and, therefore, when we looked at it, our recommendation is to embed both, to adopt both models, either at the same time or through a so-called sunrise clause on the compliance duties, so on the redress, which is something that Scotland is looking at, as we understand. So, allow time through the due regard duty to prepare, and then provide the right to seek justice.


Diolch. Eto, mi fyddaf i'n gwneud cyfraniad Cymraeg. Roedd pwynt difyr wedi cael ei wneud gan Sam ynghynt, yn trafod Ffrainc, er enghraifft, ac yn edrych ar y niferoedd digartref yn fanno. A'r hyn roedd hwnna wedi hala fi i feddwl amdano, wrth gwrs, ydy, yn yr achos yna, mae tua traean o'r bobl ddigartref yn Ffrainc yn ymgeiswyr lloches, sydd yn golygu bod yna bolisïau eraill yn effeithio ar ddigartrefedd. Meddwl ydw i sut allwn ni sicrhau bod datblygu polisi fel yma yn llwyddo i glymu i mewn efo pholisïau eraill sydd gennym ni wedi'u datganoli, ond hefyd er mwyn trio sicrhau eu bod nhw'n clymu i mewn efo polisïau nad sydd wedi'u datganoli pan fod o'n dod i ymgeiswyr lloches ac yn y blaen. Sut fedrwn ni sicrhau ein bod ni'n cydblethu yr holl bolisïau yma? Alicja.

Thank you. Again, I'll be making my contribution through the medium of Welsh. An interesting point was made by Sam earlier, in discussing France, for example, and looking at the homelessness numbers there. What that made me think about is, in that case, about a third of the homeless people in France are asylum seekers, which it means there are other policies impacting on homelessness. I was just thinking how we can ensure that developing a policy like this succeeds in tying in with other policies that are devolved and to ensure that they are tied in with policies that are non-devolved when it comes to asylum seekers and so forth. How can we ensure that we bring all of these policies together? Alicja. 


Diolch, Mabon. I think the key tenet of the right to adequate housing is to focus and target and prioritise those that are most disadvantaged, and to realise that right as quickly as possible, it does prohibit discrimination from the outset.

From an equality point of view, I see it as the next step on the road to true kind of social justice and equality. We have equality legislation in the UK and in Wales, which basically is based on the concept of comparing two groups together and seeing whether they're on an equal footing. But to me, there's no point in seeking parity within a broken system, because that doesn't achieve much. What we need to do is to take that system apart, remove the hurdles, and then seek true justice for the different groups, and look in detail at what we need to achieve: and that is what right to adequate housing asks.

The housing crisis is probably the worst it's been in decades. Colleagues mentioned the numbers of people who are homeless, in temporary accommodation, the state of some of the Welsh housing. I mentioned the equality and injustice aspects of what happened in Grenfell, and Ruth has referred to the Awaab Ishak story, where stereotyping of that family in the way they used the home was a key element of actually not providing the help that they needed in sorting out the conditions, because of their lifestyle choices.

So, in relation to refugees and asylum seekers, obviously, we do have powers to help people here and support refugees once they get their status. What we do know is that homelessness is increasing amongst that population. Thousands of people are being made homeless; over 1,000 people in Wales every year when they move out of the Home Office accommodation, and I think there's much more that we can do to support them in the process of getting housing. It's extremely hard to get a national insurance number, get a job, find housing and sort your life out in the 28 days that they are given.

In terms of asylum seekers, obviously, we are limited by devolution. However, there are some great examples of what can be done across the border in England and here in Wales in supporting asylum seekers, and actually migrants with no recourse to public funds. I think the majority of people who are given visas these days don't have that recourse, so if they become ill, disabled, victims of or survivors of domestic violence, the situation can be extremely difficult. I think what the right to housing would enable us to do is to look at their situation, look proactively for examples, within our limited powers, of what we can do, and to replicate that across the board. It is an extremely vulnerable group. These are the most destitute people, with no access to basic amenities and rights and needs.

And just because we're on inequality as well, I think another key group to look at would be disabled people. A few years ago, the Equality and Human Rights Commission conducted their own inquiry into disability and housing, and they called what they were experiencing a 'hidden housing crisis'. There is a chronic shortage of accessible housing in Wales. The allocation of the housing that we've got is ineffective more often than not, and you will know a lot about the adaptation system and how inadequate that is in terms of providing for people's needs. And we have gone some way towards improving this. I think we need to recognise that we have some progressive policies there, but that's not enough.

We're nowhere near recognising, first of all, the requirements that we have in Wales, not to mention trying to implement policies to meet that gap. So, as an example, the Wales Audit Office figures, from their last adaptations inquiry, projected that between 2015 and 2035, the population of older people who have physical impairments will have increased by 50 per cent. Now that is a huge number and we are not planning for this. So, first of all, we don't know—. Matt mentioned the data and evidence on housing conditions; we do not know what the need is for accessible housing in Wales—we don't have that data. So, we cannot plan for things like, for example, how many of those 20,000 homes built will be wheelchair accessible, and where they will be built and what sorts of adjustments people will need going forward. And there is not enough funding for adaptations, considering the huge increase in that population of older people who are disabled only, not to mention younger people and families.

A lot of this has been illustrated in the recent 'Locked out' report, which was delivered to Welsh Government around the experiences of disabled people in lockdown. In 2020, about a quarter of disabled people surveyed by Habinteg said that they don't have a home that meets their access needs. Our own work with disabled people is demonstrating some dire situations that people are living in. This is just to quote one person, who told us that: 'I'm feeling afraid and down. I'm house-bound; I can't get in and out of my house. I sleep in a chair downstairs, I can't use the stairs.' We've heard from people who are having to use a commode to sort out their basic needs. The reason I'm talking about these dire circumstances is that we do need a very targeted plan to meet that need. A few weeks ago, Care and Repair Cymru launched a report into older home owners as well, which you'll probably be familiar with—again, one population that is not really provided for or their needs are not really recognised.

In terms of racially minoritised communities, we've seen, I think, the importance of housing through what happened during the COVID pandemic. We were all told to stay at home—that was the most important message that governments across the world sent to people. But what if you don't have a home? What if you live in a hugely overcrowded situation or in a house that is covered in mould and damp or where you cannot go inside or outside or access your bathroom or kitchen? And that is the situation that a lot of black and ethnic minority people live in in Wales. Homelessness is much higher, many more people are in the private rented sector and housing conditions are worse for that population. But, again, we don't know enough, I think, to mobilise a concerted effort, enshrined in law, to meet those needs.


Felly, gaf i ofyn, a fyddech chi'n dweud bod yna angen i gasglu mwy o ddata—i rywun fynd ati a chasglu'r wybodaeth yma?

So, may I ask, would you say that there's a need to collect more data—for somebody to collect that information?

Yes, I'd say that, around some groups, I think there is a huge need. I've just outlined around disability. For others, we actually have a lot of data, what we need is to act. In relation to the right to housing as well, there's loads of research internationally, in the UK, and a lot of research we have done, which is very comprehensive, with our partners, with Dr Simon Hoffman and Alma Economics. So, we know a lot about it. I think it's time to act: introduce the legislation. Getting the right evidence and data, after the introduction, is a core part of what we need to do.


Just on your substantive point about—. Sorry, I'm hearing myself back; that's not very nice, is it? On your substantive point about how we influence Westminster in terms of not taking decisions that could affect or impact the ability for us to realise the right to adequate housing, to a certain extent that's already happening, isn't it, because policy in all areas, and particularly housing, is diverging quite markedly from what it has been in Westminster. I talked about it earlier: yes, we need to build more social housing. One of the biggest issues, and why we've got all of these people in temporary accommodation, is because we haven't got that one-bed accommodation to deal with single people and married couples without children. But, one of the biggest barriers also is the welfare system, the local housing rate, which is set at the thirtieth percentile, but that was three years ago now, I think, so it hasn't been uplifted in line. So, that's a barrier to finding PRS accommodation that can take these people who are in temporary accommodation.

So, there is policy divergence and there are decisions taken by the Westminster Government that are impacting our ability to deliver what we want to as a policy objective in Wales as it is, because we still have the 'everybody in' policy. We've made changes to regulations around priority need to ensure that that continues after the COVID period, but there are issues around welfare that are proving a barrier to achieving that. But that's not to say that there aren't other systemic and strategic issues around supply. So, what we need to do in terms of a devolved perspective is increase the supply of social housing in order to address that. So, we are, in a certain sense, beholden to certain decisions taken at Westminster, but the whole point of the right to adequate housing is that it will look at it as a whole, in a holistic manner, and redress the balance in the system, so that we don't face those and that we deal with them.

Diolch. O feddwl—os caf i, Gadeirydd—am y polisiau yna, wrth gwrs mae gennym ni bolisi blaengar yng Nghymru, sef Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015. Sut ydych chi'n meddwl y buasai datblygu'r hawl i dai digonol yn plethu i mewn efo'r ddeddfwriaeth honno?

Thank you. If I may, Chair, and thinking about those policies, of course we have a progressive policy in Wales, namely the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. How do you think that developing the right to adequate housing would align with that legislation?

Very well. So, the future generations commissioner has described the right to adequate housing as one of the biggest gifts that we could give to the people of Wales, and has argued for housing being seen as a driver for well-being, which I suppose very much reflects the contributions that you've heard from us here today. She's also pointed out, actually, that that element of long-term thinking, the where we are now, actually relates to, arguably, a lack of long-term thinking about how we would prevent the problems from occurring and some of the issues that we talked about earlier. They are about zooming out and saying, 'Okay, so there may be numbers of properties, for example, but are we meeting need?' It's zooming out and seeing the whole system and how the whole system will deliver for the people of Wales. So, that feels entirely consistent.

There are goals that the future generations commissioner has in terms of a prosperous Wales, a more equal Wales, a healthier Wales, a Wales of cohesive communities, Wales with a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. These are all things that sit very comfortably with the standards of adequacy that Alicja described earlier and a lot of the conversations that we had. But, yes, fundamentally that focus on long-term thinking, and that focus on preventing problems getting worse, I suppose, takes us back to where I started in terms of some of that data and the conversations that we've had about driving progressive realisation and no falling back from the position that we're in. The right to adequate housing really echoes those principles very, very strongly.

Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for coming in today. I just wanted to ask a few questions on the cost and benefits of introducing the right to adequate housing legislation. You mentioned before an investment of £5 billion over 30 years, which was estimated to have £11.5 billion in return. But what I wanted to pick up on was something that was in the written evidence that you submitted in your consultation response, and I just wanted to read out a sentence here about,

'The model estimates costs as well as tangible and intangible benefits compared to a "business as usual" scenario, that is, a scenario in which the RTAH is never introduced. On the other hand, if Wales was hypothetically and fully on the path toward universal adequate housing under current policies, introducing the RTAH would not generate any additional costs or benefits'.

I just wanted to get some clarification on that sentence, really, because how I read it was that the existing legislation that we already have in Wales now can address this issue, but it's not, and I just wanted to see if that was what your views were, Because the concerns that I have—and I hear it all the time when I meet various groups; they say that the Welsh Government is very good at drafting this progressive legislation, but it doesn't get implemented. Isn't this just another scenario where we could spend a lot of legislative time on trying to get this right, whereas we've already got the powers already to do it, it's just not being done? I just wanted to get your views on that.


Yes. Alma Economics are going to be coming to give evidence to you at some point, so I'm sure they can go into detail—

Today? Right. I'm sure they'll go into detail on the methodology around that. The cost-benefit analysis is just one scenario, as you say, of getting to where we need to, and it's quite possible that Welsh Government and future Welsh Governments will introduce all the legislation and all the policy requirements that are needed to get to that stage where we have enough supply, we have enough support service, we have enough investment going in to meet that requirement for everyone. Will that happen? We don't know. We don't know what the future Governments are going to be. We don't know what philosophical approach they're going to bring to housing, or where they're going to put it on the policy priority ladder. So, fundamentally, this is what we're talking about. We're bringing under a legislative banner, under a legislative umbrella, that this is a goal for existing and future Governments in Wales to attain. So, there will be a legal and legislative requirement for them to set out how they attain it. Now, yes, you're quite right; it could happen organically and it may well happen organically, but we're saying, 'Why do we want to take that risk?' If we think it's a fundamental human right, then why don't we make it one? And the impact of that and bringing everything together under that umbrella.

Introducing this specific way forward will realise those savings. So, if the Government does do this and we do implement the right to adequate housing and we implement it in the progressively realised way that the cost-benefit analysis sets out, it will deliver us £11.5 billion-worth of savings. Now, I think that's a pretty strong case to do it. We've been talking about the moral and ethical reasons to do it: people sleeping out in doorways, et cetera, people living in substandard housing, inaccessible housing, having falls et cetera, and experiencing ill health. But this also tells us that if we do it, it will save us this amount of money, and it's quite a sizeable saving. So, this will cement it in law. This will cement that saving in law, in effect. We could do it in different ways, which might provide greater savings over time; it might provide fewer savings over time—this is one way. But it will cement that approach in law, and we will deliver savings. So, it insulates us against different objectives, et cetera, in the future.

Could I comment there as well? As Matt said, it would be good to discuss this with Alma in terms of the methodology. It is an independent cost-benefit analysis. But I think what the cost-benefit analysis seeks to do is to acknowledge that there are things happening; there are policy initiatives, there is legislation in place, there are things that are designed to help to address housing and homelessness issues. But, what it looks at is what the costs and benefits are of being on a path to go further and to end homelessness and to achieve and deliver that right to adequate housing. That's the focus of the cost-benefit analysis: what would it take to take us from the current trajectory to a trajectory that actually delivers the right to adequate housing in practice, on the ground, to people living their day-to-day lives across Wales? That's what it's looking at in terms of its cost and benefit. That's where its focus lies. But it seeks to acknowledge that there are already commitments made and things that would have an impact. It's, 'What would it take? How would we go further to realise that right?' 

From my perspective, you quite rightly ask about the implementation and what we call the implementation gap, really, and I think that that would be a really important conversation to have, and an issue to look at, when we talk about enacting this legislation. Again, looking internationally at what other countries did, I mentioned the federal housing advocate in Canada—now, you mentioned that there are a lot of homeless people in Canada still, but this is a very new law. And considering that the housing conditions of so many people are dire, we have new legislation as well that enables people to withhold rent around those conditions. I think we have a propensity to go into a situation where people's rights will be breached, they'll be living in dire situations, but perhaps the system of handling their complaints, or the system of access to some kind of challenge mechanism, is not really there, is not fit for purpose. So, that is, potentially, one tool to look at, in terms of policy and implementation, and perhaps accountability around that implementation—the ability of institutions to look at systemic challenges, and to challenge the Government on that as well. 

But there are a lot of other mechanisms that I think are important to look at, and gaps in terms of policy implementation. So, it's absolutely right that you're asking about that; it's all of our roles, I think, to look at that and to make it work. 


I always close my eyes and think about the types of conversations that they were having in 1947 around the establishment of the NHS and the welfare state, and think whether these are the exact same questions and arguments that they'd be having—'Could we do this a different way? Does there need to be a universal right to free healthcare at the point of delivery, or can we do it in different ways by funding certain mechanisms and increasing the number of healthcare professionals, et cetera?' So, it's a legitimate and perfectly reasonable question to ask, but what that did in 1947 was enshrine that—up know, we were talking about behaviour; I think Sam was talking about it, and embedding that cultural change into the way we think and view housing. Because in 1947, it was part of the health and housing portfolio; it was inextricably linked to that idea of creating universal healthcare for everyone. So, the two are separated; we would argue that they need to be converged far more, because some of the bigger savings will be to the health service over the period of progressive realisation. So, yes, there are other ways that you could pursue it, but, like I say, it's, again, that umbrella, that rucksack analogy that brings it all together and focuses it for future Governments as well. 

Thank you, Chair. If I could just come back in then, I get what you're saying there—. I suppose it's a frustration on my part in the sense that that paragraph I read, which was not necessarily from the Alma Economics report, it was from your own submission to the consultation, and, obviously, it's derived from the report, but the frustration that I have is that how I interpreted that paragraph was that we can do this now, and we don't need this legislation. But, are you saying that we need that legislation to consolidate minds and thoughts? Because that's the concern that I have—. We've talked about the future generations Act and how important that would be, but, then—. I shadow the portfolio, and it's amazing, in my view, how little credence is paid to that frustration. I think it's something stupid like 5 per cent of public bodies have never even heard of the Act in Wales, and that's quite phenomenal considering that it's been enacted for so long, and it's one of the Welsh Government's flagship policies. 

And we've heard in the Chamber recently, when we did the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller evidence session—. And that's highlighted here, that there's a lack of evidence, there's a lack of study on how they would be impacted. But the legislation is already in place to help those communities, and it's just not being enacted on the ground floor. And the concern that I have is that when we have legislation like this, it will be introduced with a lot of fanfare and 'This is great; this is progressive legislation', but then, it doesn't actually do anything because of that implementation gap. And I was just wondering whether or not it's better to be focusing on why the current system is not working before then bringing on another layer on top of it. Because, as the Alma Economics report says, there is just a lack of evidence, and there's a lack of data. And, so, a lot of it is just, 'Well, we think this will happen'. Whereas I don't necessarily think that it will, and that's the concern. I think it's important that we're looking at the right to adequate housing, and I think that is a right that everyone should have, and it will help address the issues that you've raised, but I just feel that it should already be being done now. The polices—. You mentioned, Matthew, that we could let it organically grow, but the legislation is already there to ensure that it should happen, and I just wanted your views on that, really, in the sense of shouldn't we be spending our time looking at the failings of the existing policies rather than looking at what a panacea policy could try and do, whereas it might not have that outcome? So, those are just my views.


Just to say, I suppose, again, it's about reframing, isn't it? It's about that changed lens. So, it is about changing the conversation, because you're having it through the lens of a right to adequate housing. So, what we're doing now isn't working. So, that's really clear. So, we could carry on as we are, and what we can do is expect to have the same results. So, I think that reframing of housing as a human right is a really fundamental change, and I suppose what that has enabled to happen elsewhere is that galvanising of cross-government action, cross-public sector action in order to address a problem. And I think one of the challenges that people working in housing and homelessness will often talk about is that it's not just a housing problem. Actually, the solutions are much, much broader. So, the cost-benefit analysis talks about the wide benefits in terms of the health service, justice service, et cetera. For somebody having the stability in order to be able to access their mental health and substance misuse treatment is transformative. So it's absolutely an enabler for a whole load of other services to be able to deliver and deliver savings to them.

Despite best intentions, are we effectively galvanising cross-government, cross-public sector action to work in a co-ordinated way, with a long-term vision to end homelessness and to address housing need in Wales? I think the answer would have to be 'no', and I think one of the difficulties is that we are currently in a system that is governed by short-term thinking, so we need to think beyond a Senedd term. The example of Finland I gave gives you an idea of significant timescales. The cost-benefit analysis again talks about a 10-year timescale to realise. So, to reach a point where there was a cross-party consensus where housing is a human right would seem like a tremendous step forward and would provide the sustainability, the confidence in terms of the delivery of that commitment, because I suppose what I would ask, in terms of the current context, is: is anybody confident that, if we carry on as we are, we'll solve the problems that we all agree are important?

It also empowers individuals. So, you're right, the Welsh Government has the vast majority of the competencies within the devolved settlement to address housing issues and address the housing crisis, but the individual currently, any of us around this table, has no individual power to go to get legal, and, you know, a justice outcome in terms of test of adequacy. So, one of the main things that has come out of the Grenfell inquiry is the fact that—and we quoted Geraldine Van Bueren earlier—there was no justiciable route for the tenants in Grenfell to take up the issue that they were telling the arm's-length management organisation on a daily basis that there were issues here around fire safety and building safety. There was no legal route in that process for them to take that up. So, what this does also, on top of what Ruth was talking about, is that there is a stick element to this; it will create that fully justiciable right. We're not saying that there will be a flood of litigation overnight. That's not the point. Progressively realising it means that we'll get to a stage where we won't need to do that because people will have access to adequate housing, but this does push the need for Government to develop policy and develop an investment in the way that's going to deliver that adequacy on the universal level, so it does change the ball game, it does empower the individual to progress that.

Okay. We've very nearly reached the end of this evidence session. Is there anything you'd like to add on data? You've touched on it already, but any obvious gaps that you'd like to highlight that would need to be addressed to take this policy forward? No.


Not beyond what we've mentioned previously.

Gaf i ofyn un cwestiwn olaf, os gwelwch yn dda? Gan eich bod chi wedi cyffwrdd, ac rŷn ni wedi cyffwrdd, yn y sgwrs flaenorol, â sut fuasai pobl ag anableddau'n amlwg yn elwa—dŷch chi wedi bod yn gweithio ar hyn ers blynyddoedd—pwy ydych chi'n meddwl ydy'r grwpiau o bobl fyddai'n cael y budd mwyaf, felly? Pwy fuasai'n elwa o'r polisi yma?

Could I ask one final question? As you've touched on, and we've touched on, in the previous conversation, how people with disabilities would obviously benefit—you've been working on this for years—who do you think are the groups of people who would benefit most? Who would benefit from this policy?

Well, ultimately, everyone, because the right would be universal. I suppose the way you framed that question, Mabon, is, 'Who are experiencing poor conditions and poor housing outcomes at the moment that would have their issues addressed by the incorporation of a right to adequate housing?', and we've spoken at length about that: it's ranging from those suffering from respiratory diseases in poorly insulated and poorly heated housing all the way through to people living out on the street in doorways et cetera on a cold winter's night. So, it's the wide range, through to people having to sofa surf, people having to live with their parents for a number of years into their 20s and 30s because there are no affordable housing options for them. So, it's such a wide, varying implication in terms of impacting all the elements of the housing crisis and what that means for individuals. So, I wouldn't want to put a league table of the priority of who would be affected and their issues addressed, but that's what we're talking about; it's that holistic one-housing system approach that this will focus minds on.

Absolutely. Different groups would benefit in different ways, I think. Like I mentioned before, there are groups that are more affected, really, than others. From the stats side, I've quoted before that our population is not getting younger; we'll have more and more older people and more and more people who are disabled, and we're not really tackling the challenges that they're facing, whether they're in social housing or private rented, or whether they're home owners. Young LGBT people, for example, are four times as likely to be homeless as their peers. I think minority people are much more likely to be homeless in Wales than white people. So, I think it would help us deliver true rights and truly better housing conditions for these and other groups. 

Just to add to that, there's disproportionality in homelessness. There's disproportionality in terms of housing need. So, it would have disproportionate benefits for those groups. But it's also worth remembering, again, amongst those groups, are children. There are children who would grow up with that experience of growing up with, perhaps, a very unsettled home or inadequate facilities, unable to do your homework, sharing bathroom facilities with other families. There are a whole range of issues that would be addressed through this. Actually, it's really important to remember that children are very much part of this, and I think, again, this is where it keys very much into that thinking about future generations and us owning the fact that people's life chances in Wales are being impacted at present by their housing position.

I think, ultimately, you know, young people's access to housing now is very, very different to what it was, I don't know, 30 or 40 years ago. So, when we picture what it's going to be like for our children in 40 or 50 years' time—I dread to think. Ultimately, I think it's one of the biggest legacies that we can leave for our future generations.

Just to come in on the point on data, I think two specific areas: one is the standard or condition of our housing stock. We need a far more granular understanding of that, and we certainly have as an organisation—I don't know about you guys—supported the National Residential Landlords Association's call for a deeper housing stock analysis. And the other one that's emerging in terms of data is the consultation that's currently taking place on the fair rents. It's becoming clear that the granular detail and historic data on rents and specific market areas is probably not where it needs to be for us to understand what decisions to take in that process.

Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you, all three, for coming in to give evidence to committee this morning. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.


Thank you very much. Cheers, thank you.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:35 a 10:49.

The meeting adjourned between 10:35 and 10:49.

3. Yr Hawl i Gael Tai Digonol - sesiwn dystiolaeth 2
3. The Right to Adequate Housing - evidence session 2

Welcome back, everyone, to the Local Government and Housing Committee's evidence sessions on the right to adequate housing, and our second evidence session today, where we are joined virtually by Lawrence Newland, who's director of Alma Economics, and Maria Liapi, senior economist with Alma Economics. So, welcome to you both. Thank you for agreeing to come and join us virtually to give evidence on these important matters today. Perhaps I might begin with two initial questions, and, firstly, could you set out the main socioeconomic benefits that would be realised, in your view, from incorporating a right to adequate housing into law in Wales? Who would like to begin? Lawrence. Yes, please.


I think it's helpful, actually, to get into some of the detail of the background, because this is not a typical cost-benefit analysis in a number of ways, so it's helpful to walk you through a little bit more of the journey. So, I was asked to present a few minutes—

Yes, please do, Lawrence. Yes, that would be useful. Yes.

I'll go through that. What I should've said first is 'bore da'. So, as requested, I'm going to start with a short summary of the research. You've just heard from Tai Pawb, Shelter Cymru and CIH Cymru, but the key point here is that the research we've produced is independent Alma Economics research. If our clients do try to change the findings of our research, we take our name off it, so what you're hearing is very much the views that have come out of a research process.

So, in terms of what we've really focused on in the modelling for the right to adequate housing, in terms of what are the really key components, the most important components are legal security of tenure, which includes having any house. So, this is where ending homelessness fits in, but it also goes further, to ensure legal protection against arbitrary eviction and so on. And habitability—so, this is conditional on having a home—is it adequate? So, this is about it being an adequate space with protection from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health. There are other features of housing adequacy that we've done less quantitative work on: so, location—are houses in the right place—affordability, which is a difficult issue to grapple with; accessibility—we have actually modelled around particularly considering needs of disadvantaged groups—and cultural adequacy. Those feature less in the modelling work, but they are key features of what housing adequacy means in practice.

Phase 1 of our research focused on reviewing the international evidence base around housing adequacy and cases where countries have gone down a similar path. So, most of the case-study countries we looked at have already gone further than Wales—we can go into this in more detail later—in terms of their current legislation and law-making ambitions. But the key point is there were areas for improvement in all the case-study countries, so there's no country doing this perfectly. There is scope for Wales to go further than any other country is doing at present.

Phase 2 of the work is the cost-benefit analysis, and I think there are a few key points to mention early on here. So, it's important to note that not all costs and benefits are financial, so this is not an accountancy exercise. Cost-benefit analysis will put a monetary figure on some non-financial costs and benefits, and the reason this is done is to put them in a common format, so you can compare, say, a non-financial benefit, such as improving someone's well-being, to what may be a financial cost, such as a requirement for additional public funding.

So, the approach we've taken is very conventional. So, it's based on standard practice, outlined in Treasury guidance on policy appraisal known as the Treasury Green Book, and this is the guidance followed by the Welsh Government at present for cost-benefit analysis and policy appraisal. A really key assumption to stress is progressive realisation. So, in our modelling, 'the right to adequate housing is progressively realised' means over a 10-year period. So, progressive realisation is—. It's not possible to move to universal adequate housing overnight. Upon introducing the law, the idea is that it's fully legal to take time to move towards it. In practice, progressive realisation might take more or less time to achieve than we've modelled. So, in that case, if it takes longer, the costs will be spread out over a longer period, the benefits will take longer to kick in, but the ratio of benefits to costs would not be changed that substantially. The other point on progressive realisation is that it's very much a requirement to make reasonable levels of effort; it's not a requirement to overcommit financially or to do anything unsustainable. So, if there's a major hit to the public finances, then, naturally, roll-out would be slower; if we have another boom, roll-out would be expected to be quicker. So, it's very much conditional on what the context is at any given time.

So, the next really key point to stress on modelling the costs and benefits of the right to adequate housing is that it's not actually a fully specified set of actions and policies. So, normally, cost-benefit analysis is applied quite narrowly to a specific policy. What we don't have is that, in this particular case, but there are lots of precedents for looking at costs and benefits from more high-level law making. So, the best example that I can think of is the Stern review of climate change, where they didn't consider exactly how climate change would be mitigated, but they looked at the costs and benefits of a plausible pathway. And that's very much what we've done here: we've modelled one scenario for the right to adequate housing being introduced, and universal adequate housing being achieved in the future. But the path we've modelled is one that is just one of many—there are lots of ways you can do it in practice. The important thing is that the lessons learned from modelling the one path that we have modelled are valuable to any set of policy options in this space.

The next point to stress is the counterfactual, and this is what would happen in the absence of introducing the right to adequate housing. So, the great news here is that Wales is actually already on a very good path towards improving housing adequacy. So, even in the absence of introducing the right to adequate housing, progress would be made. Decarbonisation policies are particularly key here, in that, if you make a house energy efficient, at the same time, you also will, in almost all cases, eliminate damp, improve thermal comfort, improve affordability of energy bills, and also you will improve the physical security of the property—it's very hard to decarbonise a property without improving its physical security.

There are also changes in Welsh housing quality standards, and various other policies at present, all of which are working towards improving housing adequacy. However, it's not the case that you would reach universal adequate housing just under the current set of policies and ambitions—there's very much a need to go further. And that's what we've modelled, very much focusing on fully ending homelessness, and also achieving a high level of housing adaptations for an ageing population.

So, that's important context. Coming on to your specific question, the key costs here—there will be additional home building costs. These count as costs whether they are met by the public sector or the private sector or the third sector, because the cost-benefit analysis is very much looking at costs and benefits to Wales as a whole, so it's agnostic towards which parties incur costs. There will be costs of rent on renting those new properties. There'll be housing support required for some tenants, on an ongoing basis, to support and maintain their accommodation. And there is a cost to housing adaptations, just like there is a cost—not included in this analysis, but there is a cost—to decarbonisation policies, in terms of improving the existing housing stock. So, those are the key costs.

The main benefits: there is significant improved well-being for individuals, which we've put a monetary figure on. There's a very strong evidence base behind an increase in well-being associated with an increase in housing adequacy, and, especially where you're taking someone from a state of having no house—so, where you're ending homelessness—there's a very big increase in well-being. There are cost savings to local authorities from ending homelessness, and some reduced needs for social care. There are savings to NHS Wales. I would say this is a relatively cautious figure we've put on savings for NHS Wales. We try to err on the side of caution. We don't want to overreach and go beyond what the evidence base can firmly and robustly tell us. The one bit of feedback we've had from a lot of stakeholders is that this could be part of something much more transformative here, which could generate much larger benefits to NHS Wales, but we've got quite a small figure in here. 

There are savings to the criminal justice system. There is additional economic activity, in that improved housing adequacy is associated with improved labour market outcomes—so, reduced absenteeism, higher rates of labour market engagement—and this will, over time, translate into higher wages, which is part of higher productivity. And there is the value of new housing created. Home building turns up as both a cost and a benefit in that it's costly to build houses, but they are an asset, rather than, for example, where you've got a payment that's a benefit that's then spent and there's no asset created. So, they enter on both sides. 

The specific scenario modelled sees benefits significantly outweighing the costs. We've estimated £5 billion in costs over the 10-year period with discounting—near-term costs have a higher time value of money than the costs later on—but then generating £11.5 billion in economic and social benefits over the 30-year window modelled. Each £1 of spending to provide adequate housing generates benefits of £2.30. This is on top of very significant benefits already included in the business-as-usual counterfactual scenario, where we think decarbonisation policies will generate health and well-being benefits of over £30 billion just in terms of the housing adequacy benefits. This is excluding any benefits from reducing carbon emissions; this is just about improving thermal comfort, physical security and health outcomes for people living in properties. The benefits we've talked about in terms of the right to adequate housing would all be additional to the benefits generated by decarbonisation policies. 

That hopefully answers a few questions and outlines the approach we've taken. 


Lawrence, in terms of your modelling and additional benefits over and above what would happen anyway, your analysis would extend beyond Welsh Government policies to address climate change to other aspects of housing policy that will also deliver benefits. Would that be right?  

This is an interesting one. Some of the policies for decarbonisation are reserved. What we've done, though, for the actual additional costs and benefits—. We think these are entirely policies that Wales has control of. For example, we wouldn't model something like change in the local housing allowance, because it's not a devolved power. 

Thank you very much, Lawrence. A further question from me, then, before we move on to other committee members. I guess in any modelling or analysis, there will be benefits and disbenefits, advantages and disadvantages. Did your research highlight arguments against incorporating a right to adequate housing into law? Is there anything you can particularly point committee towards in that respect?  

Our analysis hasn't presented anything strong on that, but there are case studies of countries that we would see as low-performing case studies. I think what I would say is if you're doing this, commit to it and do it properly. I think the biggest case against doing it is introducing the law but without the political will there behind it. If there was an attempt to introduce it but not really comply with it, or not really put resource behind it, then it adds less. I think we saw, for example, the case study of South Africa, where they have the ambition but they don’t have the resources. That would be a case of they’ve not achieved as much as some of the other case study countries. That would be the main thing that came out of this: if you’re doing it, actually do it.


Thank you very much, Lawrence. We’ll move on to Sam Rowlands.

Thanks, Chairman, and good morning. Thank you for your time in committee here today. My question, the first one, is in relation to the strength of the evidence base that you’ve used in terms of writing your report, and the evidence base in regard to adequate housing being a potential policy. I was just wondering how confident you were in the evidence base that you were using in your report. Were there any gaps that you believe should be addressed in terms of the evidence base?

I’ve got a very high degree of confidence that the evidence that we’ve used provides a good case. There are gaps, but the gaps I would see would be around the benefits side. I think there are additional benefits that we’ve not been able to quantify. There’s a significant gap around really understanding whether it could be transformative for health over a longer period, possibly in conjunction with other measures, in terms of if you can move towards having a longer term healthier population underpinned by housing adequacy, and how that can help you sustain a healthier life, that could generate much larger savings. I don’t see a good way to fill that gap, but that is a gap.

I think there’s an issue that would be quite a hard one to grapple with around really understanding location of houses—so, the idea that you might have houses in the wrong places at present. This one we’ve not really covered in our modelling. There are different solutions. One is actually that there are no houses in the wrong places, but those places need revitalising, so it’s more about revitalising local economies. Alternatively, it’s about thinking more about where home building is focused going forward. That’s an area that we’ve not modelled. But what we do think, just taking quite a cautious view of the evidence base that’s there, is that there’s quite a good indication that this is likely to generate benefits that exceed costs by a good margin, so you’re not looking just to exceed the costs—. The fact that the benefit-cost ratio is more than two, so you’re generating more than £2 of benefits for each £1 of cost, is a very healthy starting point for having a bit of a buffer, but then, if anything, actually hoping to beat that.

Thanks. Just to expand on that a little further, on a specific point in your report—. I'm looking at page 10 of the report, where you highlight the assumption that the Welsh Government will be delivering on their 20,000 new low-carbon social homes by 2026. We know in the committee—well, we’re pretty sure—that that’s not going to be delivered, especially in terms of what was originally expected as being newly built homes. I wonder, with that not likely to be delivered, what sort of impact that has on the evidence you’ve provided in the report.

This is an interesting one. Under cost-benefit analysis conducted in the way that it’s used by Government, it's always assumed that current state policies will be effective, and this is because when it’s produced by Government, the alternative is to put out material saying you’re going to fail on your own policies. So, that’s the approach we’ve taken, which is consistent with the typical Government approach. Let’s say instead that the carbonisation policies are considerably off track, and let’s say that more of that fell to the right to adequate housing to achieve. What I think that would do in practice is it would slow down the speed of progressive realisation, it would take you longer to get there. There would be more costs, but there would also be more benefits.

The main message, I think, that’s coming out of this is it looks like, where we’ve looked at different aspects of this, there tend to be benefits exceeding the costs for different types of intervention, whether it's improving thermal comfort and quality of life via decarbonisation-style policies, whether it's ending homelessness, whether it's housing adaptations for the elderly. In all of these cases, the benefits, particularly for well-being and cost savings for services, once you've put those together, appear to exceed the costs. Bringing more into the scope of the right to adequate housing—so, if you said that, actually, a lot of improving housing stock sits in the right to adequate housing, rather than decarbonisation policy—makes it a bigger policy, but it doesn't necessarily change the ratio of cost to benefits very much.


Thank you. Thanks, Chair. I appreciate why you have to position your assumptions based on a Government delivering on a set policy. I understand that, so that's fine, thanks. You mentioned earlier some of the countries that have incorporated similar legislation or law in relation to adequate housing. Through your work, were there any areas or any countries you thought did things particularly well on delivering on this, or any that did things that we could learn from in terms of how it hasn't worked, especially in terms of your piece of work around getting the cost-benefit ratio to the best position possible?

The country that's achieved most in this space is Finland, and I would say that the big driver there is political will. It's not the legislation. The legislation underpins where they're going, but they've made more effort towards progressive realisation than other countries.

Canada is a really interesting-looking example. I like their approach to enforcement, in that, ultimately, you're introducing a new legal commitment, and you can meet that legal commitment in two ways. You can meet it by wanting to meet it and trying and making continual effort towards meeting the aim of being on a good path towards universal adequate housing, but then there are also enforcement mechanisms—what happens if you stray a bit. If, let's say, there are conflicts with other policies, then you want to have some kind of sensible enforcement. It doesn't need to be major court cases, but you do need to have some kind of enforcement mechanism. I think Canada is quite interesting in terms of their enforcement. I don't think it needs to be about individuals suing the state, I think it just needs to be legal commitments that officials are aware of so they're constantly advising Ministers, building it into their own planning. Most Welsh policy making, or the vast majority of it, would be very cognisant of what's happening in terms of legal commitments.

Can I just expand on that a little bit further, Chair? Thank you for that. You highlighted Finland as perhaps the country that is handling this in the best way at the moment, and I also understand they've been probably looking at it over a longer period of time than other countries as well. Is that also making the biggest difference in terms of the cost-benefit analysis, as well? So, rather than just they're delivering on it well, as in they're delivering the legislation well, are they also seeing the benefit from a cost point of view the most out of those countries?

On that, we don't have an evidence base to comment clearly. The best I would say on that is the more commitment you make, you incur more costs and you generate more benefits. So, Finland, if they've made the most effort, will have incurred the most costs, they'll have generated the most benefits, they'll have generated the biggest net benefit. That would be our expectation. But in terms of specific policy mixes for how you absolutely maximise the benefit-cost ratio, I think it would be—. If you're working with everybody to achieve universal adequate housing and you actually get there, then I think a lot of people are going to end up in similar cases in terms of the final ratio of benefits to costs. In the short term, you can maximise it by working with the most deprived, where the benefits—. Well, even that, actually, is a grey area, so I'm not sure I could firmly make that conclusion. If you work with people who are most vulnerable, the benefits will be highest, but often the costs are highest. So, I've not got a clear answer for you on how best to maximise the ratio of benefits to costs and whether Finland's done better on that.


Right. I do have more thoughts, but I'm conscious of time, and if there's time at the end, I'd like to come back in, if that's all right, Chair.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Thank you for your contribution this morning, and I think I was particularly struck by the point that you make that if you're going to do this, you have to commit to it fully. You've touched on a number of countries this morning, but is there one country in particular that provides a real model for Wales to use?

So, I would actually say the best thing to do is for Wales to follow its own model and, if you want to do this and commit to it, you can do it better than any other country has done. So, Finland has achieved most so far, but the actual legislative right is not as strong as in some other countries. So, in their case, it's political will that is leading to achievement, more so than the specific legal framework. So, in theory, you could have a big change of direction in Finland and go backwards. And then, you've got a country like South Africa that's got a very strong legal right, but it hasn't achieved very much. You've got a country like Canada with interesting enforcement mechanisms. So, I think there genuinely is a case that you can go and cherry-pick and learn different aspects, and then tailor it, to the extent that you think that you as policy makers have an idea of what's the best way forward for Wales. It's not a case of just copying other countries; it's also tailoring for the Welsh population.

That's really helpful. Thank you. You've also touched on inequality and how this would help reduce inequality. What groups in particular would you anticipate it would benefit the most?

So, it particularly helps with income equality in that the lowest income deciles would benefit the most; they're most likely to be in inadequate housing or in homelessness. Where you're thinking about things like the cultural adequacy of housing, it's smaller groups, but you would potentially have some benefits there that improve equality.

I think improving equality for individuals with disabilities, where we know there's a very strong evidence base that families with disabled family members do see worse outcomes on many measures, I think, in providing housing adequacy for them and adequacy in the context of their needs as individuals with disabilities, you could achieve some very good movement on equality there.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. A diolch i chi am ddod a bod yn bresennol a rhoi eich tystiolaeth y bore yma. Wrth feddwl am y gwaith ddaru chi ei wneud a thrio dadansoddi’r gwaith yna, allwch ddweud wrthym ni, os gwelwch yn dda, beth oedd yr heriau mwyaf wrth amcangyfrif costau a manteision cyflwyno'r hawl i dai digonol?

Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you for attending and for giving your evidence this morning. Thinking about the work that you've done and trying to analyse that work, can you tell us, please, what were the biggest challenges in estimating the costs and benefits of introducing a right to adequate housing?

So, I've covered some of this already. The biggest challenge in some ways is that it's an atypical cost-benefit analysis, because we don't have a full suite of policies to look at in detail, so we've had to create a stylised path for getting there, and then to consider how well that would apply to other parts for progressive realisation. So, there's a challenge to the fact that this is slightly more abstract than your most typical cost-benefit analysis, where you might be looking at a very narrow policy.

I would say there are also challenges of—. We have limited the scope to where the evidence is very robust, so we haven't modelled locations. That's out of scope of the model, because you'd need to commit a lot more resource and thought to how you could do that and if you could do that given the current evidence base, and we've had to be conservative around some of the health benefits, where a lot of people we've talked to about the work, experts we've consulted and the steering group thought we could have gone a lot further, but we just couldn't identify an evidence base to underpin that.

So, I think probably the single biggest challenge would be defined as also the breadth of this. It's potentially a very far-reaching policy, but we've really tried to focus on a robust evidence base around the core aspects of it.

Diolch. Hwyrach bod hwn yn gwestiwn annheg, ond allwch chi drio esbonio i rywun lleyg fel fi sut ydych chi'n 'monetise-io' rhywbeth sydd heb werth ariannol arno fo?

Thank you. Perhaps this is an unfair question, but could you try to explain to a layperson like me how you monetise something that has no financial value?


I'm going to sound a little bit heartless here. My profession has its heart in the right place, but, for example, sometimes in cost-benefit analysis you need to value avoiding a death, so, this is big in transport cost-benefit analysis. And so, unfortunately, as a profession, even though it's not a very nice task, there is an established value of avoiding the loss of human life. And then that translates into changes in quality-adjusted life years. So, if you reduce the length of a life—so, this would be, for example, when you're doing cost-benefit analysis of medical interventions or reducing smoking—you're improving longevity or you're improving effective years of longevity, so, more years of having a high-quality life. And this is then also translated into changes in well-being. So, it's all consistent; it can all map to the morbid task of valuing a human life and aspects of it in terms of the quality of that life and the self-reported well-being scores.

We've not done anything novel in this space whatsoever; we've just applied the Treasury's Green Book guidance on this. So, for example, if the empirical literature identifies that living in damp environments cuts longevity by a certain period, you can then, in reversing that, put a figure in pounds on it. I would say this is highly beneficial to do, even though it doesn't sound great when described to a layperson, but the benefit of it is you can achieve very good consistency in policy making across different tasks. So, whether you're thinking about transport policy or health policy or housing policy, you can convert everything back into a common format and look across the piece where you're trying to work out how to prioritise as a Government.

Diolch. Mae'n swnio'n ddifyr iawn, oherwydd pe buaswn ni'n gweld y Grand National yn dod i fyny a bod rhywun yn dweud wrthyf i fy mod i'n medru rhoi £100 lawr ar geffyl a sicrwydd o gael £230 yn ôl yn dawel bach, yna mi fuaswn i'n mynd am hwnna'n syth bin, oni buaswn i? Mae o'n beth mae rhywun yn ei alw'n no-brainer. Felly, mae gweld eich bod yn sôn am, beth ydy o, £1 o wariant yn dod â £2.30, dwi'n meddwl y dywedoch chi, yn ôl, yn golygu bod yna fuddion amlwg yn mynd i fod.

Rydych chi'n edrych ymlaen a gweld beth ydy'r buddion potensial, ond allwch chi esbonio, os gwelwch yn dda—ac rydych chi wedi cyffwrdd arno fo—o ran costau presennol tai annigonol i'r Llywodraeth ac i ba raddau yr oedd o'n amlwg bod rhai materion eisoes yn cael sylw? Rydych chi wedi dweud ein bod ni ar y llwybr iawn—er enghraifft, codi safonau trwy safon ansawdd tai Cymru a rhaglenni datgarboneiddio—ond beth yw'r costau presennol i'r Llywodraeth o gymharu efo'r buddion rydych chi'n sôn amdanyn nhw yn y dyfodol o weithredu hyn?

Thank you. It sounds very interesting, because if I saw the Grand National coming up and somebody told me on the quiet that I could put £100 down on a horse and be assured of getting £230 back, then I would go for that immediately, wouldn't I? It's what somebody might call a no-brainer. So, seeing that you're talking about £1 of spend bringing a return of £2.30—I think that's what you said—it means that there are going to be clear benefits.

You're looking ahead and looking at the potential benefits, but can you explain, please—and you have touched on it—the current cost of inadequate housing to Government and the extent to which it's clear that some issues are already being addressed? You've said that we are on the right pathway—for example, raising standards through the Welsh housing quality standard and decarbonisation programmes—but what are the current costs to the Government compared to the benefits you are talking about in the future of implementing this?

I can only speak to the aspects of costs and benefits that we've put in our model. We've not fully modelled decarbonisation or the business-as-usual set of policies, but, in our model, with the further improvements to moving towards universal adequate housing, the costs at present are effectively the reverse of the benefits. So, where we say that there's a productivity gain of £1 billion, what that means is that, at present, you're forgoing £1 billion in productivity through higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of absenteeism and lower wages due to having some inadequate housing and some individuals' experiencing homelessness. 

The same is true for the health costs. That's a cautious estimate of the current costs. Effectively, you're reversing those costs in the analysis, you're reversing the criminal justice costs. So, if you take the benefits and effectively reverse the sign, those are the current costs.

Dwi'n gwybod bod GDP yn cael ei ddefnyddio yn aml iawn fel ffon fesur, ac mae'n bell o fod yn berffaith—mae'n gwbl amherffaith, os rhywbeth—ond mi fuasai'r hyn rydych chi'n dweud am y buddion economaidd, buddion o ran y gweithlu'n medru gweithio'n well, yn fwy effeithiol, ac yn y blaen, mi fuasai hynny'n golygu ein bod ni'n gweld gwella yn ein GDP yng Nghymru. 

I know that GPD is used quite often as a measuring tool, and it's far from perfect—it's completely imperfect, if anything—but what you say regarding the economic benefits, the benefits for the workforce, that they could work more effectively and better, that would mean that we would see an improvement in our GDP in Wales.


Yes, that's correct. The main flaws of GDP are the omissions. So, it doesn't include, for example, any measure of quality. But, what is in it is beneficial also. Where you're talking about increasing labour market outcomes, increasing employment income across the population, that goes directly, one for one, into GDP, and that is directly beneficial. 

Thank you, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for coming in this morning. Just a quick couple of questions, really, that I just wanted to pick your brains about. I'm conscious that you mentioned there that you've not done a cost-benefit analysis of the status quo, business as usual, but, obviously, you have done an analysis of the current practices. And I just wanted to get your views or your overall thoughts on that, because the speakers in the evidence session before yours, their response to the consultation was that—and I'm paraphrasing here, now—if we carried on and we used current policies, there wouldn't be any cost or benefit to implementing a right to adequate housing Act, if we just implemented what was currently in place. I just wanted your thoughts on the current policies and why they're not necessarily dealing with the situation or tackling it, if that's okay.

Yes. So, the first thing to say on that is that our view is that the current policy trajectory does not put Wales on a path to ending homelessness. If you believe that it does, then the costs and benefits that we've put into 'The right to adequate housing in Wales', you can say, 'Well, no, actually, we don't attribute those to the right to adequate housing; they're in the baseline, they're in the business-as-usual scenario.' Similarly, on housing adequacy relating to an ageing population, our view is that Wales is not on track to achieve that under current policy. If you think it is, then, again, you could say, 'Well, that's in the counter-factual, that's not in our new cost-benefit analysis.' So, if you believe that, in the absence of introducing the right to adequate housing, Wales would move towards a position of universal housing adequacy over a reasonable period—maybe 10 years, maybe 20, arguably even 30—then, at that point, the right to adequate housing does become free to introduce in that it would lead to no additional costs and no benefits that you could assign specifically to that policy. So, it comes down to your view of what would happen in the absence of introducing it. 

Thanks ever so much for that. So, with that in mind, you highlighted Finland as a model, and their legislation there isn't as strong but the political will is there to make it work. Do you see that there's probably an absence of political will here, then, to see current legislation work, because one of the issues that keeps coming up with me, whenever I speak with charities, organisations, community groups, government sector organisations, they say that the legislation is there but they always talk about this implementation gap, that the  Government's pumping out this legislation—sometimes confusing legislation, where existing legislation would already deal with the situation—but that implementation gap means that it's just not getting worked on the ground. Is there a danger there, then, that this legislation, without the political will, would be meaningless, really? Because if the current legislation that you've highlighted in the report can help to address the situation but it's not happening, surely that's a failure of Government, then.

So, I'm not going to comment on whether the current political will is sufficient or not. I don't think I've got an evidence base to comment on that. If you were to introduce this without the political will of pushing towards universal adequate housing, then the extent to which the legislation matters is around the enforcement mechanisms you'd put in it. With really, really strong enforcement mechanisms, you might end up down the same path anyway, kicking and screaming, which doesn't seem like a very good way to make policy, but it's theoretically possible. With no enforcement mechanisms, if this was almost a law that creates no threats, no threat of judicial review, if it's not justiciable in any way, if there's no internal enforcement within Government, then it would be kept possible to write this and insert it in such a way that it didn't achieve anything, which would be an incredibly odd thing to do, but it's theoretically possible.


Perfect. Thanks ever so much for that. Well, I suppose I'll switch my questioning a bit more now to the report rather than the generalities of it, I suppose. We heard from the previous evidence session about how fundamental increasing the housing supply is to making sure that people have that right to adequate housing. I assume that you are of the same opinion there—that Wales suffers from a housing shortage, and if that was addressed, that would help alleviate the situation, do you think?

Yes. I think under the vast majority of plausible paths, you would have an increase in housing supply, over and above current levels, to move to a point of universal housing adequacy. It might be possible otherwise, but it's not obvious that it is. So, within our work, it's explicit that you need additional housing supply.

Perfect, thank you. Chair, just one final question, if that's okay. In your report, you mention the difficulties or the challenges in quantifying some of the impact, especially in terms of the right types of homes being in the right place, and then the impact on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. I was just wondering what could be done, do you think, to more understand the benefits for them, or for those that are difficult to quantify.

With additional research funding, you can fill a lot of gaps. I think it would be a case of where there's no existing evidence base, you conduct it from existing research, you can conduct new research where you go and do additional field work to understand—. At least you can understand self-reported views, and you try to design questionnaires in such a way to elicit evidence in the most robust way.

What I would say is that it's important, but just in terms of the numbers, it's probably a very small component. It's not quantified, but it probably doesn't move the dial on the costs and benefits.

Thanks, Chair. As we have a little more time, perhaps, than initially expected, I wouldn't mind just asking a couple more questions. In particular in your report, in terms of calculating the benefits, I'm interested to know what assumptions you've made around housing tenure within that, because there's plenty of evidence out there that shows—. It's kind of responding to the—. It's on the back of your response to Mabon's question earlier, about how that calculation is made in terms of the benefit, because there's a lot of evidence to show that there's a direct link between life expectancy and home ownership, with those owning their homes living longer. There's also lots of evidence around a sense of well-being due to home ownership, where the physical and emotional security of owning your own home gives you a better quality of life, for many people, as well. So, within your benefit analysis, have you made any assumptions around the right to owning adequate housing, rather than just the right to accessing adequate housing, and what difference that may make to the total benefits of what's been proposed?

We've not made any assumptions around a right to ownership. I don't think that would feature in the legal right to adequate housing. So, what you need to achieve is, whether people own their own home, or are in the private rented sector, or in social housing, you need to find a way of improving the adequacy of their housing. And where people have no housing, it's helping them to, first, access housing, but, then, it's adequate housing. And, actually, the costs and benefits we produced are really about—. I would see them as—you should think of them as changes. So, you might be right that—you are right—there is an evidence base that home ownership is associated with higher longevity, but let's say that you're a home owner and your house is inadequate, let's say you have significant problems with damp, lack of thermal comfort, very high energy bills, what we would be looking at is the incremental change from addressing that, which will incur costs for improving the property, but it would also generate benefits. So, it's more about how much do we change people's lives where they're not currently in adequate housing?


Thank you for that. I wonder, though, if there is a slight missed opportunity here, if we want to realise the most benefits, and whether there's a piece of work that could or should be undertaken to see how home ownership can help make that happen, as well as other tenure solutions. 

And, then, just a final question from me. Obviously, within the analysis you've done, the total costs are estimated at, say, £5 billion, and, then, the benefits at £11.5 billion. I think you mentioned earlier that, if more is invested, then you're likely to see more benefits off the back of that. Is there are a cap at which that may happen? So, just to be facetious, if you were to invest £50 billion, would you see £111 billion of benefits? Is it capped as to where that kind of eases off in terms of realising the benefit? What is that sort of level? Is £5 billion the maximum, do you estimate, or is there another level at which, by spending even more, you see even more benefit? But when does that stop? Thanks. 

Yes, there's definitely a cap. So, this is not about achieving super high levels of luxury; this is about moving to what we would currently think of as a level of adequacy, where you're living in a space that's free from harms, free from things that would be adversely affecting your home, or your health within your house. So, issues such as damp and heating, or issues such as not having somewhere to live. If you were to try to gold-plate this, which, there's not much risk, but if you were, you wouldn't start—. The likelihood is that you'd generate benefits less than the costs if you were to keep going further.

I wouldn't say £5 billion is a maximum or a cap; it's a plausible scenario for getting to universal adequate housing. It could, in practice, cost more or less depending on other facts that are happening. So, for example, if you have very bad economic outcomes nationally, then, probably, there's more to do, for example, but a period of prosperity would reduce the amount that's there to do. 

There hasn't been identified a point at which you'd lose the benefit of the cost investment. Is that fair?

Where it's working towards housing adequacy, there's been no point identified. Where you're going beyond what you'd think of as housing adequacy into further luxuries, then you are going to get a lower return on additional spending that would eventually become zero and then, negative. 

Okay. Well, thank you very much for coming in to give evidence today, Lawrence and Maria. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in due course. Diolch yn fawr. 

Thank you.

4. Papurau i'w nodi
4. Papers to note

Okay, then. The next item on the committee's agenda today is papers to note, the first of which is a letter from the Minister for Finance and Local Government in relation to corporate joint committees in response to a letter that the committee had written on issues that needed to be addressed. And the Minister tells us that they have now been addressed and UK Government has amended legislation that deals with issues around taxation and borrowing that were problems for CJCs but have now been overcome. That letter also encloses a copy the Minister's statement on those matters.

Then, we have a letter from the chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee in relation to housing issues facing birth parents and care leavers. Jayne, do you want to say anything about it? The letter asks us, really, to understand and be aware of the work that that committee has done and to possibly factor in the issues identified in terms of future work that the committee might do. Jayne, would you like to say anything?


Diolch, Cadeirydd. I think it's important for us, as chairs, I think, to make sure that we're communicating, and this is some of the work that we've done on the Children, Youth People and Education Committee where it has been touched on in some of the evidence that we've received, but we are really keen that we're not just sitting on that evidence and that we're sharing it with other committees, like this one, to make sure that you take it into account in any work that we do on this committee. So, we just want to make sure that you're alert to that and to take it into consideration for when we look at anything on this committee.

Could I ask you, Jayne, in terms of the issues you've identified in the letter, whether you will be taking those up with the housing Minister? Or is it something we might do as a committee?

Yes. We haven't done our report yet, so this is all the evidence. So, it might come up in our report in a way that it could be part of that report. But, if there was a further, in-depth investigation, then it's unlikely that the children and young people committee would be able to do that. So, if this committee wanted to raise it with the Minister, that would be good as well, and we can do that as well, perhaps, in our work. I think it's important that we—. Sometimes, the more committees that raise it, the better. It depends on what other Members feel.

Well, I'm sure that the committee would be happy to discuss, perhaps, at the appropriate point when you finalise your report, Jayne, whether we could write in addition and refer to your report and add our voice, as it were. Mabon.

Gaf i, ar y pwynt yma, ddatgan buddiant os gwelwch yn dda ar gyfer y record? Mae fy ngwraig yn gweithio yn y sector plant mewn gofal. Felly, nid bod o'n effeithio o gwbl ar y drafodaeth, ond bod o'n cael ei gofnodi.

May I, at this point, declare an interest, please, for the record? My wife works in the sector. Not that it effects the discussion, but that it is recorded.

Okay. Diolch yn fawr, Mabon. Well, if committee's content, shall we adopt that approach, then? And if you could write to us again—your committee, Jayne—at the appropriate time, we could then consider, as a committee, whether we'd like to add our voices to the particular aspects of your report that relate to housing and this committee's responsibilities.

Thank you very much. The third paper to note, then, is the Welsh Government's response—. I'm sorry. Sorry, Carolyn—sorry, I should have been looking at the screen. Carolyn.

Thank you. Sorry, I just wanted to go back again to the CJC letter. I didn't realise how much levy local authorities had to pay to be part of the CJC, except when I just looked at the budget meeting. One of the local authorities was Flintshire, and the levy they were paying was £171,000 to be part of the CJC. So, I wanted to just note that here, and maybe it's something we can bear in mind when we discuss CJCs in the future. Thank you.

Yes, okay, Carolyn, we'll do that, we'll make a note. Thank you very much for that point.

So, paper 5, then, is the Welsh Government's response to our report on the Welsh Government's draft budget for the next financial year. Okay, is committee content to note the papers on that basis? 

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Item 5, then, is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Is committee content to do that? Yes, I see that you are. We will then move into private session.


Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:45.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:45.