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 Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Luke Fletcher
Sam Rowlands

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Emma Williams Cyfarwyddwr Tai ac Adfywio, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of Housing and Regeneration, Welsh Government
Julie James Y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd
Minister for Climate Change
Sarah Rhodes Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Polisi Tai, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Housing Policy, Welsh Government
Stuart Fitzgerald Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Cartrefi a Lleoedd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Homes and Places, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Angharad Era Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Catherine Hunt Clerc
Jennie Bibbings Ymchwilydd

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 09:32.

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

The meeting began at 09:32.

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

Let me welcome everyone to this meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. The meeting is being held in a hybrid format, but, aside from the adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in that way, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of the meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation is available. Are there any declarations of interest? No.

2. Sesiwn i graffu ar waith y Gweinidog: y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd
2. Ministerial scrutiny session: Minister for Climate Change

We will move on, then, to item 2 on our agenda today, a ministerial scrutiny session with Julie James, the Minister for Climate Change, and the Minister's officials. Minister, do you want to introduce your officials or have them introduce themselves?

I'll let them introduce themselves. We'll start with you, Emma.

Bore da. Emma Williams, director of housing and regeneration.

Bore da. Sarah Rhodes, deputy director, housing policy.

Bore da. Stuart Fitzgerald, deputy director, homes and places.

Okay. Thank you, all. Minister, perhaps I might begin with some initial questions on the private rented sector. And could I ask initially how would you characterise current relation and working arrangements between the Welsh Government and the private rented sector in Wales, because I think, obviously, that sector has a role to play in many aspects of Welsh Government policy and, obviously, the better the relationships, the more likely Welsh Government is going to be able to work effectively with that sector?

Yes. We have a perfectly good working relationship with the National Residential Landlords Association and, obviously, we meet with them. They're part of our stakeholder groups. We have a range of stakeholders on the groups, which include both landlords associations and tenants associations, as you'd expect, so that we get a series of perspectives across the piece. I meet relatively regularly with the president of the NRLA, whose name has totally gone out of head for a moment, and with several other stakeholders on a rotational basis. I do things as I do with all the other groups—I go and speak at their conference and officials show up and do workshops at conferences. Obviously, we liaise between them and Rent Smart Wales and a number of other things. So, I'd say it's a perfectly reasonable working relationship.


Okay. Obviously, it's quite a diverse sector, the private rented sector, Minister, isn't it, with some very small players, as it were, as well as larger organisations. How would you describe the role that that sector is currently playing in meeting the housing needs of our diverse population in Wales, Minister, and how do you intend to take forward policies to make sure that the role that the PRS can play in meeting those needs is further developed?

Well, it's completely essential. We wouldn't be able to house 20-odd per cent of our population if we didn't have the PRS. It's an interesting sector, really, because we always hear about the churn end of it; we always hear about people trying to get into rental properties and so on. But one of the reasons for that is that, actually, people stay in rental properties a very long time, so, actually, for many people, it's their home and it's their home of many years. So, we have a contrasting two ends of the sector.

We hear anecdotally all the time that landlords are leaving the sector, but the Rent Smart Wales data that we have doesn't back that up at all. We can go into some of the detail of that, if you like, Chair. So, what we seem to have—. Since the end of COVID, for example, we've seen a steady number of landlords registering with a steady number of properties registering at Rent Smart Wales. Rent Smart Wales does give us a really useful tool, because we're able to contact the landlords in Wales in a way that I don't think any other part of the UK can do. So, we have a direct methodology for being able to contact them and to get two-way feedback and so on. The Rent Smart Wales data you do have to look at a little bit carefully, because a landlord registers for five years, and, if they leave the sector during that five years, they don't necessarily deregister, so you don't know they're going to deregister until the end of the five years. So, at the end of the first five-year period, we had a number of deregistrations, but, very helpfully—. And I'll probably find the figures; there we are, let me see if I can find them. So, from September 2022 to September 2023, so the year after the pandemic, the number of registered properties increased by 4,500, just over 4,500, to 212,823—it's very accurate. So, properties are not declining in any number, really. And also we've got 773 landlords registered with Rent Smart Wales last night—last night; it's that kind of day, sorry—last month. Just under 500 of those were renewals and just under 300 were new registrations. So, you can see we've got a relatively healthy set of incoming properties into the system.

So, on the whole, I would say that we don't have any particular evidence that, in Wales, anyone is leaving the sector in any more numbers than anyone else, and of course there's churn in the sector. We also know that, in Wales, 70-odd per cent of our landlords own one other home. So, this is a large number of very small landlords who perhaps got married and rented out the other house or inherited a house or something—they're very small scale. So, only 30 per cent of our landlords are landlords of more than one property. So, we've a very different sector in that regard, and people tend to have long-term relationships with their tenants in those circumstances as well.

The real issue we have in the private rented sector is the cost of rent for new tenants, and that is really not helped by the local housing allowance having been frozen. We know that rents have increased—Emma will correct me to the exact figure, I'm sure, but a six-ish, 6.5 per cent increase in rents. But the LHA has been frozen for three years now, so, obviously, it's just not reflecting the level of rent. And in Cardiff, for example, it's in the early 1 per cent, 2 per cent, 3 per cent of properties that are covered by the LHA allowance. That's hopeless; that's not what it was ever meant to do, and it means that, unless you're a social tenant, you are really struggling, if you're on any kind of income support, to help that. And I just want to remind the committee that most people on income support are working. So, these are people who are trying to hold down jobs but who need help with that element of their income, and LHA was there to do that. And it makes no economic sense to do that either, because, if those people become homeless, they become a lot more expensive immediately, both in human terms and financial terms. So, we constantly call on the UK Government to increase the LHA, even back to the 30 per cent it used to be before the freeze. With previous Governments, it was 50 per cent, which is where I personally think it should be, but even the 30 per cent would be a real help for people.

And then we—. Sorry, I can keep talking about this until you stop me, Chair, but we also, as you know, have a scheme where we encourage private sector landlords to come into leasing scheme Wales, where, basically, we manage the properties for them, and it enables us to give tenants better security of tenure and enables us to help the landlords bring the property up to standard. It's a good deal for people, but we pay the local housing allowance for that. I emphasise it's still a good deal, because you get an unbroken income, it's regular and steady, and the Government makes sure it's paid and all that sort of stuff—no hassle with it or anything. But, clearly, we would have more opportunity to do that if the LHA allowance was actually coming up to 30 per cent of the market rent. The lower it is in market rent terms, the harder it is to do that, although, it's, interestingly, quite popular all the same. So, we do try very hard to help landlords stay in the sector and to bring their properties up to a better standard, because that's one of the biggest worries: how will a private sector landlord, particularly one with a Help to Buy mortgage with increasing mortgage rates on it, afford to bring the house up to the sort of standard that we expect? So, we try very hard to help them do that.


In terms of affordability of private rents, Minister, I think we know, don't we, that rents have risen faster in Wales over the last year than they have in England or Scotland. So, are you considering any particular courses of action to try and make rents more affordable for tenants?

Yes. So, I'm sure the committee knows we've put a Green Paper out very recently. That Green Paper was to give us an evidence base to inform the proposals in a forthcoming White Paper, which is part of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru. We needed to do a Green Paper first, because, frankly, we were struggling to write the White Paper because we didn't have any kind of evidence base off which to make the various proposals we want to make in the White Paper. We had nearly 400 responses to that.

Three hundred and 70 responses to that, so they're in analysis at the moment. Because that's exactly what we're trying to do—we're trying to take the sector with us in establishing a system of affordability, if you like. And I just want to emphasise: affordability goes both ways. So, the tenant absolutely has to be able to afford the rent—of course they do; we very much want to do that—but, if the landlord can't afford to let the property at that rate, they'll exit the market. So, we have to make sure we've got a supply of PRS properties as well, because we're never, ever going to be able to catch up with that—certainly not in any short-term arrangement—with social housing. We need the PRS to be a stable environment for people to live in. And I just want to emphasise that, although we hear lots of stuff on the radio and on the media about bad landlords, 99.8 per cent of the landlords are very good landlords, with good relationships with their tenants. So, we absolutely want to drive out the bad ones, but I do not want to put all landlords into that basket, because that would not be fair or accurate.

No. Okay. Before we move on, Minister, just a question about the renting homes (Wales) legislation. It's important, isn't it, in terms of the information it provides and the relationship that it allows with those landlords. Can we be confident that it's pretty comprehensive in terms of those that should be registered, those landlords that should register, being registered?

Yes. Obviously, you have to register. If we found that you were letting out your property and you weren't registered, then that would have severe consequences. We obviously do a lot of publicity about the fact that you need to register and so on. We're doing an evaluation of the Act, as we would with any Act, as it beds in. It may be that we need to tweak it a bit, but we'll do the evaluation as we always do. There is quite a lot of misinformation out in the sector about what the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 actually says. So, we get quite a lot of queries in, don't we, about, 'Does it mean this?', and I can tell you absolutely hand on heart that 90-something per cent of those are, 'No, it doesn't mean that', or, 'No, it doesn't have that effect', or, 'No, we don't think that you have to do x, y, z'. So, there's a lot of misinformation.

In a nutshell, what the Renting Homes Act does is it says that you have to have a home fit for human habitation. I don't really understand what the problem with that is. And in all honesty, if a landlord can't make their home fit for human habitation, I don't want them to be letting that property out. So, if we did have somebody exiting the market because they couldn't bring their property to that standard, good, frankly. So, I don't have any truck with that. It gives people a better chance to feel that it's their home, that the private rented sector house is their home, and, if the landlord does need the house back for any reason, it gives the tenant a good long while to sort themselves out in good order with a new home. That's what we want. 

I'm often asked, 'Why don't you have a no-fault eviction ban in Wales?' There's no such ban anywhere. The Scottish legislation allows no-fault evictions; it calls them something else, but it allows them. There are several grounds in Scotland where the tenant, through no fault of their own, is having to leave the home. That's a no-fault eviction. So, what we've done is we've increased the amount of notice that that tenant has to have in those circumstances in order to allow them to have, in good order, a chance to find another home. We aren't seeing any real evidence that evictions have gone up in any big measure. There was a spike in evictions at the end of the pandemic, as you'd imagine, because we'd banned all evictions for the whole period, so of course there was a spike at the end. But the data is now showing us that it's evened back out, and I don't think it's gone back to pre-pandemic levels at the moment, has it, Emma? So, we don't have evidence of that, although we hear a lot of anecdotes to that effect. 


Just to talk a bit about homelessness, because obviously everybody's very keen and interested in the timing and the timescale of the introduction of the homelessness Bill. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about that, and just the timescales. 

Yes, certainly. So, we have a White Paper that's just gone out. I was very pleased indeed to launch that on World Homeless Day in the Senedd; I know you were all there. Obviously, we're going to go through the White Paper process to get all of the comments and pieces of evidence back that that will elicit. The Bill is then on track to come into the Senedd next—I can't remember—.

I don't think there's an exact date published yet, but it'll be—.

In the next Senedd year, basically. We can provide the committee with a backward timetable that doesn't have an end date on it, but it is always very surprising how long the genesis of a Bill actually is. So, people say, 'Bring that forward more quickly', and you say, 'Well, these are the stages we have to go through', and the committee will want a good long time to have a proper look at it and take evidence and so on. So, I'm happy to provide the committee with an indicative timetable, but I know the committee's done many pieces of legislation. So, you know, it has be translated, we have to get it into good order, we have to make sure that we have learnt the lessons of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016. This is a very seismic piece of legislation. It is completely transforming homelessness legislation in Wales; it's not tinkering with the system. So, we will need to be absolutely certain that all of the consequential amendments, all of the possible consequences on groups of tenants or groups of homeless people—that we've thought through every single ripple and ramification of that so that we don't have some unintended consequences. 

I probably will bear the scars of the renting homes Act legislation for a good long while, because we passed that in circumstances where, I think it's fair to say, not all of that work had been adequately done, for whatever reason. I'm not interested in, particularly, why that happened. And, as a result, the Senedd will have seen that a number of regulations have had to come forward putting amending provisions in or putting consequential amendments through and so on. It is what it is, but we want to learn the lessons of that and make sure that this Bill doesn't have that problem, not least because it took us nearly seven years to implement the renting homes Act because of those issues—six and a half years, or whatever it was. We had a small party when it finally went through. And I don't want that to happen to this; I want this Bill to become an Act. I want the Senedd to approve of it, cross party if at all possible, and then we want to implement it. We don't want to be waiting forever and a day to get it implemented.

So, I make no apology—. I suppose it's a long-winded way of saying I make no apology for doing the work upfront so that, when we introduce the Bill to the Senedd, we can be confident that the Bill does what we want it to do and has all of the bells and whistles associated with a reform as far reaching as this reform is embedded in the Bill in the first place, and we don't have a whole series of unintended delays afterwards. 

Okay. Thank you. There are a few aspects where the 'Ending Homelessness' White Paper differs from the expert review panel's recommendations. Perhaps you could just say a few bits about that, really.

Sure. So, some of them are because we're doing a sequential series of things in housing. So, some of the things on rents, for example, are part of the Green Paper-White Paper-subsequent Bill arrangement that we have. We want the homelessness Bill to be as coherent as possible, so we don’t, I’m afraid, want a lot of other slightly connected but not really mainstream things associated with it. There’s a reason for the sequence of the Bills going through, and we’ve explained that to the expert panel, so that’s one part of it.

Other parts of it—the education engagement piece, for example, is an interesting one. So, simultaneously with this piece of legislation I know that my colleague Jeremy Miles, Minister for education, is looking at workload issues in schools, so we want to make sure that we line up with that piece of work. So, rather than put duties on schools to do various things, we want to make sure that the youth engagement progression and engagement framework, for example, is fit for purpose, and we have to align it with—. I mean, we might come back to that. In the White Paper we’re asking for views on that, and obviously the education department has views, and, Emma, you might want to say a little bit about some of the liaison that we’ve done. 


Thank you, Minister. The important thing to say there is that the absence of a specific suggestion of a duty at the moment in the White Paper doesn’t negate the very close working relationship that we have with education and the delivery of really important prevention work within the education sector. So, I wouldn’t want anybody to think that because we’re not at the moment proposing a firm duty, there isn’t that funding and joint working to make sure that where younger people are showing indications that we know may lead to homelessness, the intervention isn’t there, the work isn’t there to make sure we scoop them up. But what we’ll do over the course of the White Paper is continue that engagement with education colleagues and with the education sector in particular to work out what’s working at the moment, what isn’t working, and where the work as well as potentially a duty need to be strengthened. 

Thank you. And finally, Chair, just around some of the proposals, particularly around local connection, maybe, and around care-experienced young people, that's really, really positive, and I know that lots of young people are really interested in that, particularly around care-experienced young people. I know it covers people leaving prison as well, which is really important, and those who've experienced domestic abuse. But perhaps you could just say a little bit more about the proposal around care-experienced young people, because I know there are lots of people watching this looking forward to this proposal.

What we're trying to do is we're trying to make sure—. It's what the health service would call the 'no wrong door' approach. If you speak about the mental health services, for example, what we're trying to do is make sure the public services that come into contact with vulnerable groups of people—care-experienced youngsters are obviously one of those groups, but there are others: prison leavers, veterans; there are a range of people with particular vulnerabilities in terms of stable housing—what we're trying to do, in a nutshell, is make sure that when those individuals come into contact with a public service, that public service signposts them into the system in a way that protects them. And that doesn't happen at the moment. So, the legislation does say that it should happen, but it clearly isn't strong enough. So, we know that people leave prison into homelessness. We know that people leave hospitals into homelessness. We know that people leave care into homelessness.

So, the idea is to prevent that from happening by putting a duty on various bits of the public service to signpost and pick up those people. So, if a care-experienced youngster is in a hospital as a result of whatever, then before the hospital discharges them, they need to make sure they’re discharging them into a team of people who are going to make sure that they have a home to go to, and aren’t discharging them so that they go round the corner and sleep on the road. I just can’t emphasise enough that that’s what we’re doing. So, the White Paper is asking for opinions about what would work, how would that happen. We have a system that’s creaking in some ways. We need to make sure that it streamlines it out, and I can’t, again, emphasise enough that this is about prevention. So, if we could get this system into place and working, then the system would actually be much more efficient and a lot less costly. It’s the transition, isn’t it? How do we get from here to where we need to be?

So, we’ll work through that as we go through it, but that’s where we want to be, so that we don’t have incredibly expensive, completely inappropriate temporary accommodation in play when actually we could be using that money to get people back into a path that will mean that they become the best person they can be, and actually aren’t costing the public purse five times as much as that in accommodation that is just not doing it for them. So, in a nutshell, that's what we're trying to do. And then, what the paper is doing is working through all of the contacts and connections that people might have and trying to signpost them back into the system. The expert working group has been brilliant on this. This isn't our idea, we were following the recommendations of the group. The group had an enormous number of experts who gave up their time to us because they are really dedicated to this, who know, on the ground, if you like, what works and what doesn't. And so we're really grateful to them, and we've had lots of groups that the committee will be very familiar with helping us out on that. As you know, it was chaired by Crisis, so I'm very confident that that group knew what they were talking about and are pushing us along the road in the right direction.


Diolch, Cadeirydd. Good morning, Minister. I can see the desire to ensure that putting forward the Bill—the due diligence behind that. I think, in terms of the expert review panel so far, the conversations I've had with a number of stakeholders have been quite positive and I think that's something to be welcomed. I take your point on not putting a legal duty on the education sector and wanting to explore how that would actually work—of course, we all know the importance of the education sector in identifying young people at risk of homelessness.

I'm thinking now about the proposal from the expert review panel on joint homelessness boards to monitor the effectiveness of homelessness services. Is there a similar rationale there? I mean, what's the resistance to going forward with that? I know, of course, that the Government agrees in principle and wants to explore it further, but what's the barrier at the moment?

One of the things we're really good at in Wales is layering lots and lots of different groups of people and calling them something slightly different, and then when you go and look at that group, it's absolutely the same group of people who are also called the public services board and are also called the regional partnership board and are also called the—. So, that's why. So, it's not that we don't want an oversight group, it's that we want to think about who that is and how that works, and how it fits into the current landscape. So, rather than just putting in another group of people who, in all honesty, will be the same people who are on the public services board, what we want to do is have a look to see what the best way of doing that is. I'm afraid we have been extremely good in Wales at just making another committee—it seems to be part of our DNA. So, that's the real issue. It's not the function, it's where should the function be and who would be best placed to help us with that.

And, frankly, these are all pretty stretched agencies already. So, what's the best way of doing that in an efficient and effective way? And, you'll know, I'm sure, through talking to other Ministers, that we review the way the public services boards work and we review the way the regional partnership boards work alongside them. Many of you will have been to those meetings; you'll sit through an hour of a public services board and then two people will change and it will become the regional partnership board. So, I just really want to make sure that we're making the most efficient use of other agencies' time and expertise in bringing—we've no problem with the function—that together. So, that's where we're going with it and the White Paper will flush some of that out, won't it, so—.

I know we're often referred to as the land of song, but I always say the land of committees as well.

But I understand the point, because there's a lot of crossover in these boards. But there is an argument that's been put to me by several of the stakeholders as part of the expert review panel that there seems to be not enough space within regional partnership boards at the moment to discuss specifically homelessness, but there's a bit of a focus on the private rented sector. So, what would your thoughts be, then, just in terms of how we address that, because obviously, we want—?

So, you think of the Bill as a whole—so, that's because they don't have a duty to do all the things that the Bill will set out. I would argue with you that, once you've got a public sector 'no wrong door' duty, then it becomes something that very much would be discussed at the regional partnership board, and anyway, we can direct them to do that. But I will say, hand on heart, that I don't know that that's the answer. It may be that we do put a different structure in, but we just want to explore it, so I can't emphasise enough that it's not the function that we're against, it's about trying to find, in the already quite complicated landscape of public sector interventions, where this would sit. And, you know, we'll get lots of responses back from the White Paper and we'll be able to analyse those and have a look at it and we'll see.

And finally, Chair, just a quick question on an officer being specifically responsible for homelessness within health boards—is that something that the Government is also looking to explore further? We know that some health boards already have somebody in place. We know the links between housing and health.


Yes, and whether we need to mandate it, or whether there's some other way of doing it is one of the things, again, we'll explore. In the end, what we want is we don't want people to leave hospital into homelessness, so the question is: 'What's the best way to achieve that?' Each health board will have a view, it may be that one size doesn't fit all, it may be that one size does fit all, but when we've got the responses back from the White Paper, we'll be able to have a look at that, and that's what will come into it. Do you want to add to that, Sarah?

Thanks, Minister. Just to add, really, to what the Minister has said, we want to ensure that what's existing at the moment is working effectively and that homelessness doesn't sit on the side of that, that it's integrated and part of it. The risk, I think, of creating different structures or different processes is actually that they sit outside of what exists already. We want to make sure that it's integrated to ensure that it works in the most effective way possible. So, as the Minister says, it's not about the outcome that the expert panel is talking about—absolutely, that's where we want to get to—it's how we ensure that it works in the current landscape and doesn't just create additional structures that actually mean things are disjointed. We want to ensure that they're working in as effective a way as possible.

Thanks, Chair. Hello, Minister. How confident are you that these proposals can be adequately funded and sourced given the importance of housing support services? I've heard from the cross-party group on housing—it was in the news last night— Crisis were saying about how the housing support services are really struggling, the housing support grant, and I understand you've got funding constraints. I was told that there is a 10.7 per cent increase in delivering services because of inflation, 75 per cent of the support services are running at deficit already and using reserves. I heard from another organisation a couple of weeks ago about the impact it's having on domestic abuse as well. That's increasing, so they need to offer support in those areas to those people. It's really quite horrendous at the moment, isn't it, regarding houses and support, so just really to ask you: how do you think you're going to be able to deliver this and what action can you take to try and deliver an increase in housing support grant going forward?

I think it's the Cymorth report, Carolyn, isn't it, not Crisis, that's come out—

Yes, Cymorth, which was mentioned in the news; at the housing cross-party group, it was Crisis that was speaking about it.

I just wanted to check I was talking about the same report. So, yes, absolutely. This is not a great situation. I really would have loved to have put more money into the housing support grant. This is of absolutely no comfort to anyone in the sector, but it was quite a struggle to keep the uplift that we had put in. We put quite a considerable uplift in the year before, and, frankly, I had to sharpen my elbows quite vigorously in order to keep the uplift. So, we did manage to do that, but, of course, we were then hit by this massive inflationary bubble, which is what's causing—the amount of money we don't have is the exact amount that inflation has ripped out of our budgets, so this is universal across it, and it's happening not just to the housing support grant, it's happening to the councils that are delivering—. I absolutely acknowledge that that's a problem.

When we started this budget year, I had every intention, and Emma and I had quite a lot of long and difficult conversations, because I had every intention of squeezing some money out of my budget to put into housing support grant, because we know it's necessary. Well, in fact, nothing of the sort has happened. I've had to squeeze money out of my budget to give up, so it's just not possible. I can't promise anything of that sort, it's not possible. We're not out of the woods yet, next year's budget is not going to be any better than this year's budget.

But the whole point of this legislation is to get ahead of this, and it's been put to me lots of times, 'Why would you do this now when the whole system's in crisis?' Well, that is why. If we don't get into this preventative agenda, if we can't stop what's approaching 1,000 people a month presenting as homeless across Wales, we're never going to get out of this—never. My goodness, I have met people who are outreach workers in housing who are just the most lovely human beings I have literally ever met, who do the most extraordinary job.

I do just want to say I absolutely accept what you’ve said, Carolyn; there's no getting away from that. But I do also just want to say that most of the system is still working, that those people are still out there, that they're still doing that excellent job; that we're still putting support services in to every single person, that we still get to them. So, I absolutely accept what you say, but I do think we also need to emphasise the really good work that’s still going on. It's really depressing for people who are doing that work to constantly be told that the whole system is crumbling around them. So, whilst I’m not taking away anything that you said, and we have long conversations with Cymorth about how to do it, and indeed, with the local authority sectors about maybe we can do the procurements differently, how can we do the contracting differently; you know, there are all kinds of conversations going on about trying to get it to be as efficient as possible in the circumstances.

I just do want to also say that there's an awful lot of good things out there, so here in Wales, we still have an 'everyone in' policy; that’s not the case elsewhere. We do have rising numbers of street homeless, and I'm really, really sad to see that, but it's not our policy. Our policy is to get people into services and into good services too. So, we know where each one of those people is; we get outreach workers to them. Lots of people, as you know, have complex problems once they've become street homeless, so it can take months and months of an outreach worker's time and effort and expertise to get that person to come back into trust and come back into services. We still do that, but the system is creaking, because frankly, we are struggling for cash.

Emma's desperate to come in and say some more about it. Let me let her. [Laughter.]


So, thank you, Minister. I just think it's important to not just focus on one part of the system. The emphasis that has been put on not just prevention, not just ensuring that funding is there to support the 'everyone in' policy, but trying to find new and innovative ways to get longer term housing into the system much more quickly, so through the transitional accommodation capital programme, for example. But we've also been looking at the ways that we need to be more flexible with housing support grants, and as the Minister has said, any spare penny is being put out there for the purposes of prevention. But it is a really fine balance, and really important that we keep the activity on all fronts, so we need the support there for temporary accommodation, but we also need options to move people out of that temporary accommodation as fast as is humanly possible, and we can only do that if we're also developing longer term accommodation. That puts a huge strain on our local authority partners and third sector partners, but there is activity on all of those fronts to try and make sure that we can get ahead of the curve, because the legislation is such an important factor here, but actually, it's about cultural change and changing the way the whole system operates to get in much earlier, and we can only achieve that if we've got the housing there as well as the prevention.

Okay, thank you. Can I just say that I meet with north Wales RSLs as well and they raise this with me as well? So, I just wanted to say that on record. And I understand there's so much being done as well, but I wanted you to be able to explain, because you're going to get a lot of blogging about this at the moment, so I thought it was really important to raise it at the committee and you had the opportunity to explain the situation.

Absolutely, Carolyn, and I absolutely acknowledge the point. We know that that's happening. We meet with Cymorth all the time; Katie and I are very familiar with one another. She does an excellent job, quite rightly, in highlighting that. But as Emma said, we have a large number of other interventions going on trying to get ahead of this, so even something that might not look like it's anything to do with this, like the Help to Stay we were announcing only yesterday, is about keeping people in their houses. It's about stopping them presenting as homeless, and stopping them sliding down into the system.

So, we have a huge number of interventions across the whole system, so even—I'm sure the committee will come on to it—setting social rents, for example. The social rent agreement with all the RSLs and stock-holding councils includes with it a commitment by them not to evict anyone into homelessness, and that's an absolutely essential part of the bargain between us and the social housing providers. We have that arrangement with a large number of sectors now, so we are working around the whole thing.

But I'm not going to not acknowledge the fact that we would love to put more money into housing support services, nor am I not going to acknowledge the fact that those people are working in the most difficult of circumstances, often on very low pay, because they are incredibly dedicated, and we've got to acknowledge that, of course.


Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Minister. I'm sorry that I can't be with you in the room today. Just a quick comment. I appreciate your earlier comments on the various regional bodies, as someone who sat on a PSB, an RPB, an EAB, an RLB and any other alphabet spaghetti acronym we could come up with, I'd agree with you that there's probably not much need for too many more of those. I just wanted to come on to themes, questions first around housing supply more broadly and then, as you just mentioned, the Help to Stay announcement as well.

So, just on the housing supply side of things, I'm just wondering whether you could provide your most recent assessments and perhaps the challenges in delivering the 20,000 low-carbon social homes for rent target and how you see that playing out over the coming months and years.

Thank you very much, Sam, I'm glad you agree with me about the alphabet spaghetti. We love a three-letter acronym in the Welsh Government, I have to say. There's a piece of work for someone to do a compendium, I'm sure.

So, we’re holding to our 20,000 new homes for rent. We’re doing it by holding on, but I’m not prepared to give it up because it’s ambitious and I want to push the sector into doing it. I just think the committee needs to be absolutely aware of that fact that we didn’t think that we’d do 4,000 a year for five years. So, you can’t think, ‘You didn’t do 4,000 in this year, so you’re not going to make the target’. If you look at the last Senedd term, actually, the target accelerated because we put the money in this end, and it takes a while for it to come through and out the other end. So, I’m pretty sure we’ll still get to there or thereabouts.

We just had a really good year for affordable homes in Wales. So, we had just 3,369—that’s very precise—in 2022-23, a 26 per cent increase on the previous year and the second highest total since the data was first recorded. So, that means that we’ve done 5,775 since 2021, when we started. But we put an enormous investment in in that first year, so we’re expecting that to accelerate, and we work very hard to make sure that we are across the—. Stuart’s team, in particular, worked very hard to make sure that we understand where the planning applications are in Wales. So, if you back up, how do we know what’s going to be built? So, we monitor the planning applications in Wales, we know where they are; we know where they are in the system. We know that, if we haven’t got stuff into planning by the end of this year, it’s not going to come out by the end of the Senedd term. So, we know where that is.

We work really hard on some of the really difficult issues, like the phosphate stuff. So, we’ve managed to unlock 1,000 or so houses up in your patch of the woods, Carolyn, by innovative solutions to the phosphate problems, and that’s unlocked a couple of the sites up there.

We’ve got working groups looking at each planning application, right down to that level, to say, ‘Where are these? What’s happening? Are they coming ahead? Are the affordable homes in them? Are the social rented homes in them? Both bits.' So, we monitor it at an incredibly detailed level. We employ people whose job it is to make sure that these planning applications are happening in the system, and I talk to the RSLs and stock-holding councils all the time about, ‘Where are you with this? What are you doing?’ So, I’m not going to say that we’ll absolutely make it, because with the inflationary increases in this the cost of each individual home has gone up eye-wateringly. We’re probably getting four homes a £1 million at the moment, and we were getting five or six homes a £1 million. It makes quite a big difference in terms of the investment.

But as we speak right now, it looks like we will just about make the target. So, the target holds. And I really want the committee to understand quite how much work, on an individual day-to-day basis, goes into monitoring these figures and working with each council to say, ‘Here’s your LDP’—well, Sam, you know this from your old hat—'Here’s your LDP, what is being delivered in this LDP?’ So, I know that yours was one of the councils where we did it. Some of these have been in these LDPs for 25 years. There’s no chance of them being, ‘Housing, get rid of them—do something that will actually be delivered.’ So, we’ve done that right around Wales. We’ve found sites in Wales that were allocated for housing that were cliffs, which were never going to have any housing on them.

So, we’ve tried really hard to get the LDPs to be realistic, to actually reflect land that could have housing built on it. We’ve got things like the stalled sites funding and the—. What's the other one called? The cleaning it up fund. What's that called? I can't remember.


The land development fund. Thank you. They've all got the same words but in a different order to confuse poor Ministers. So, basically, we'll help you clean it up if it's contaminated, we'll help you with an affordability package if it has stalled for some reason. We've got grants in place to do all of those things. We meet very regularly with the construction sector. We have a forum there where we talk to the SMEs about what the problems are and what they need to help them through, and we've put the intervention rates up and we've put the amount of money that we put into each house up, as inflation has gone up. So, I can't honestly tell you that we'll absolutely make the 20,000, but we'll get as close to it as we can. I will say this, though: we did expect to exceed it. In the last Senedd term, we exceeded the target, and I think we probably won't exceed it by very much. Nevertheless, the target holds. 

Okay. Sam, I'm just going to bring Carolyn in. Very quickly, Carolyn, because time is rapidly—.

Yes. I know that planning resources are quite tight in councils. So, the RSLs have offered that, if their planning officers could help the councils, they would do that. So, perhaps you could just pass that on.

So, just to say on that, we work with the WLGA and with a whole series of other players in this field to try and make sure that we have good planning services where they're necessary. We give assistance to planning authorities through—. I haven't got my planner here; I'm just looking around thinking, 'I haven't got my planner here'. [Laughter.] So, my head of planning is very across that. They have detailed individual conversations with the planning authorities to help to make sure that we can help. And even things like, on Monday of this week, I was talking to the renewable developers across Wales and talking to them about putting some of their funding into planning, because obviously we can't get things through planning if we don't have officers to do it.

We're also working with the WLGA on hard-to-recruit professions. So, building control officers, for example; we're just about to fund some trainees in building control. They're also necessary to build houses. We fund some traineeships in planning and also in public sector law because, again, if the local authority doesn't have planning lawyers, the whole thing grinds to a halt. So, it's not just the planners; you need to make sure that all of the other officers who feed into that process and are integral to making it work properly can be recruited or can be borrowed from another authority or, indeed, Carolyn, as you say, seconded in from elsewhere in the system. So, we're definitely on to that.

Thanks, Minister. It is good to hear that you're still striving towards that 20,000. It just struck me in your response that there's perhaps the risk of conflating a very specific target around the low-carbon social homes for rent versus affordable homes more generally. Do you think that there's a risk of those things getting confused, because actually they're two quite different groups of property? I wonder, when you were explaining about the 5,575 properties, that's the affordable homes more generally, not the specific 20,000 target you're working towards.

[Inaudible.]—specifically social homes for rent. So, that's 20,000 social homes for rent—new to the system, social homes to rent. So, we've been very specific about that. That's a different target from the previous Senedd, which was affordable and included social homes for rent. We also are building affordable homes, as in homes that are sold for less than market cost. We have a whole range of those. There's co-operative housing, there are community land trusts, there's shared equity, there are standard 106 affordables—there is a whole pile of other tenures going ahead. But, just to be really clear, the Government's target is for social homes for rent. So, going into the social sector. 

Yes. And the number you quoted, the 5,575, that's affordable housing more broadly, isn't it?

So that's—. I don't know, actually. Which one is that? That's our target, isn't it?

The numbers I was quoting, is that the overall affordable or is it the social?

It is the overall affordable, but it includes—. They are primarily social rents, there will be some intermediate rents. Stu has got the exact—.

Yes. A small amount of those are shared equity, which would get removed from that, but the bulk of that total goes towards the target. 

Okay. I wonder whether it would be worth sharing the breakdown of that. I think we should have that somewhere anyway.

Great. Thank you for that. And then just touching on the point you made in terms of phosphates—and it is good to hear there is, again, progress being made there—I believe there may be another summit coming together. I wondered if you wanted to speak to that point and perhaps the progress you hope to see off the back of that.


Yes. So, the next summit is on 30 November; I'm chairing that. It's to go through the agreed action plan from last time and to get each sector to tell us where they are with the agreed pieces of work that they were doing. As you know, the whole purpose of that is to make sure that, rather than pointing fingers at each other, each sector comes and tells us what they are actually doing about their bit of it. The First Minister could not have been clearer that anyone who started saying, 'Well, what are they doing over there?' was going to have very short shrift. So, actually, the summit was very good; people did do exactly that. And so this next one will be an update on where each sector is in delivering their particular improvements. And, you know, each sector contributes to this. So, we need the house builders to contribute; we need the agricultural land use people to contribute; we need the water companies to contribute. They're all at the summit. We also have the nutrient management boards, the better river management boards, NRW; we have the Environment Agency, actually, for some of the cross-border stuff. Every single player is there in the room. And the idea is, as I say, to say, 'What are you yourself doing to (a) get better water quality across Wales—?' So, that's—. Just to be clear, this is a two-pronged approach, right, so, it's to get, in general, better water quality, but it's also to free up the planning applications that are held behind—the phosphate problem—so, there's a very specific goal.

So, this particular one on 30 November—not surprisingly, as I'm chairing it—is focused on that specific goal. The following summit will be chaired by my colleague Lesley Griffiths, and she'll be concentrating more on her bit, and then the First Minister will chair another global one after that. So, we've sort of—. Sorry, there's an NRW-chaired one and then the First Minister's. So, we're sort of concentrating on particular aspects of water quality. And, obviously, I'm very keen to make sure that we can get these planning applications under way, but—I cannot emphasise enough—without degrading our water quality in any way. That's absolutely the prime point of it.

I think we certainly would support that, whilst pushing the urgency to get or allow these houses to be built, and it's positive to hear you say there's around 1,000 that seem to be unlocked up in the north Wales region. I just wonder if there's a simple mechanism for yourself, through the Chair, to keep the committee updated with the progress on that, because it is something we, I guess, discuss fairly often as a committee. I think it would certainly be welcomed.

I'm very happy to do that. I'll make a statement after the summit, or the First Minister will—I'm not absolutely certain whether it's me or him, but there'll be a statement, and I'm very happy to keep the committee more specifically updated on some of the issues coming out of it, sure.

Yes. Thanks, Chair. I'm sorry to go on, but, on the Help to Stay announcement, which was made—. I think it was just this week, wasn't it? I was just wondering, perhaps the Minister could talk to the scheme more broadly, but then specifically perhaps on the risks that you may see as a result of the scheme, and, in particular, the risk or likelihood of mortgage holders defaulting on the equity loans and what sort of measures you might be putting in place to avoid repossessions as a result of people potentially defaulting on any loans that Welsh Government may hand out?

Yes. So, obviously, the point of this is to make the home more affordable for the person in the home. I was very clear yesterday in making the statement that this comes with mortgage debt advice—independent mortgage debt advice. So, the mortgage debt adviser will go into a very granular level of detail about what the household can and can't afford, and the idea is to lessen the burden of the mortgage payment on that household so that they can stay there; perhaps because their circumstances are expected to change in the five-year to 15-year period. So, I mean, just as an example—this is only a very small example—you may have somebody who is on maternity leave or paying for high childcare costs at this moment in time, expecting to go back to full-time work when their child goes back to school or starts school the following September, and actually, you know, the gap in their household income because of that is huge, but actually levels off at that point. You can imagine lots of circumstances in which somebody is experiencing an income blip that is causing this problem. They can't get out of that in a normal mortgage. So, you know, you absolutely can't get out of that in a normal mortgage, but if you spread that out over a longer period of time—. And for some people, they won't need this help because they'll be able to go to interest only or they'll be able to spread the term of their own mortgage out or whatever, but, for some people, they won't be able to do that, and what we want is to make sure that those people can stay in their home, because, if they fall out of that home through forfeiture and become homeless, not only is the human cost horrific, but the cost to the public purse is horrific. It's way more than paying for this.

So, I think the answer, Sam, is that they will then stay in touch with their mortgage adviser all the way through. They will be expected to regularly check in. The cost of that will be regularly checked. What it will do is it will help them—. If they really can't afford it, it will help them to leave in good order, basically, and not end up in forfeiture and all the rest of it. But I would imagine that the vast majority of people will use this to actually stay in their own home and be able to recover from it afterwards. It is a second charge on the property, so we have a charge on it, but we're not expecting to do it like that. We're expecting it to help the system out. We don't yet know how many people will be in the system, but Emma told me yesterday—because I only announced it yesterday—Emma told me that, for the first time in her career, we had applications on the first day of the announcement, so I think it was well received. Because people are struggling—they really are. So, we'll see. And I'm happy to report to the committee as we go along about the numbers of people who are in the system and so on.


Just briefly, to expand on that point. So, with my previous hat, I was a credit risk manager for a bank. I know that banks have shifted quite significantly in terms of the way they work with and support customers in the last decade or so. But I wonder: is there a risk, do you think, that some banks may not necessarily look to managing and dealing with the risk themselves as effectively, and offload all the risk onto Welsh Government as a result of this? Because, as you say, banks should be working closely alongside customers through any sort of difficult process and putting in place measures that should be supporting them. Is there a risk that, actually, banks may stop doing that and put all the pressure onto Welsh Government to do that leg work?

No. They have to work inside the banking charter, obviously, and then what we do is we're signing up lenders to it. So, at the moment, we don't have every single lender signed up. We've got quite a lot of them, though, and we imagine that, as the scheme rolls out, we'll have more, because they'll be able to see that it works. But we have people signed up to it who are happy to do it. I don't think that will happen, because actually what we're really doing is helping that mortgage provider secure their own risk, aren't we, because we're keeping that person in the house and making the repayments on the first charge. That's what we're actually doing. So, I would have thought that, actually, once the scheme rolls out, they'd welcome it. So, if you think about the way that works, Sam, you've taken the risk in lending to the people. Almost all of them will be people with low fixed—[Inaudible.]—trackers or a much higher fixed-term interest rate, and people can't afford the 3 per cent or 4 per cent difference in payment. What we're doing is smoothing that out, so actually what we're doing is securing the first charge holder's asset, aren't we, really, by keeping them in there. You know that, for forfeited mortgages, they discount those assets very substantially, so I don't think it will work like that, no.

Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for coming in today. I've only got a couple of questions, really, that I wanted to ask, broadly around empty homes. I know from your written evidence that you've answered a few of them already, but I just wanted to pick your brains about something that's raised in it, about how the figures for empty homes can be distorted because they also include homes that are long term for sale. I was just wondering if you had an idea of how big an impact that is, because I was quite surprised by it. I wouldn't have thought it would have had that big an impact.

I'm going to have to get Stuart to explain some of the way that this works, because the stats for this are fiendish. But, yes, basically, if your house has been on the market for two years but it's actively being marketed, it's still an empty home and it's still a long-term empty home. So, we're trying to distinguish the ones that are empty and not being actively marketed from the ones that are being actively marketed, basically. Stuart, I don't know if you want to—.

The statistics we work with define empty properties using the council tax definition of those. When council tax becomes chargeable at six months, a property is empty, and then a long-term empty after 12 months, and that's the figure I've got here, but it's just over that. That's that 22,000 figure that we hear reported. The Office for National Statistics stats that came out were much larger than that—over 100,000—but that was taken from census data on a particular day, and it was a day during COVID, so you can imagine some of the figure there is students not being in student accommodation, people with families, that kind of thing. So, we do think that they were inflated somewhat. But, nevertheless, we take seriously all the statistics we get in tackling empties. So, those are some of the differences there in the figures reported, if you like. 


Okey-dokey, perfect. And I suppose that brings me on to my next question. I know, with your programme of government, you made reference to wanting to introduce an empty homes register, and I was just wondering what the latest is with that and what progress has been made, and if there's any timescale, really, for it to be brought in, and to what level of detail will that go into then, as you mentioned there about long-term empty homes for sale and that sort of thing. 

Yes, so the programme for government commitment is for empty buildings as well; it's not just homes, because we want to sort out empty shops and so on as well. We've got some independent research being commissioned, and the closing date was the beginning of this week, I think, Monday, to establish what businesses would find most useful in terms of accessing empty properties of that sort. We've also got a small working group of local authorities who've been making progress on identifying empty buildings in their area. I think that's very scientific—it involved sending somebody to walk around the streets going, 'That one looks empty.' But what we're trying to do, Joel, is work out a better method of data collection to refine, as Stuart said, the council tax register, because, at the moment, it's a bit of a blunt tool. So, we've been talking with Plaid Cymru, as part of the co-operation agreement, about some of this as well. And what we'll be doing is we'll be enhancing some of the databases that we have; we have some mapping going on.

I actually had a really lovely visit to Newport—Jayne, you joined us for a short while, didn't you—where Newport has been doing a really good project of getting the empty above-shop storage, I guess they are, into residential use. It's been really successful in parts of Newport and it brings some vibrancy and footfall back to the centre, as well as—. It just seems such a waste, doesn't it? Sometimes, there are two floors of just empty property above those shops. So, we've been trying to work through some of the complexities of that, using the Newport example as a pilot. I think there's quite a lot of that kind of property across Wales, so we'll be working with local authorities to see what we can do to sort that out. There are some planning issues around that, and some restrictions, so, again, we're working with planning colleagues to try and smooth the passage of turning quite a lot of those empty buildings back into beneficial use. Some of them will be business-beneficial use, but some of it would definitely be residential.

Just one final question, Chair, from me; I'll get back to the page from the evidence. Obviously, you recently mentioned about an update to the financial position for next year, and how about £19 million in capital funding is going to be taken away from the empty homes scheme. I'm just wondering if any assessment has been done on what sort of impact that would have.

Yes, so, just to be clear, we haven't taken it away; we've moved it into future years. It was quite obvious we weren't going to be able to spend it this year, so we've what's called 'reprofiled' it. So, it's a neat public sector methodology for shifting your expenditure into the following year. That's partly because what we're doing, Joel, is ramping up the work that we're doing, and we knew we weren't going to spend it this year. So, you can kind of get brownie points off the central finance lot if you give it back this year on the basis that they'll give it back the year after. When the committee does the supplementary budget scrutiny, you'll be able to see the movement of that. So, we're not planning to not spend it; we're just not spending it right now. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. If we could turn to building safety next, is the Government satisfied with how quickly developers are starting to do some of the remedial works around building safety?

So, we've got several categories of buildings. So, I think that's the thing to get your head around; maybe it's me who needs to get my head around it. So, there are actually four categories of building. So, there's the social homes, which are all in remediation, or all have plans associated with them. There's the major developer homes, all of whom have signed up to the pact in Wales, all of whom have signed contract documentation, and all of whom have submitted plans to us. Quite a lot of those buildings are now starting the remediation journey. So, I will be making an oral statement later on in this Senedd term about numbers and so on, when we've got the data properly.

Then we have two other cohorts. We have a cohort of what we call orphan buildings—so, buildings where no developer is traceable, or they were built more than 30 years ago and the various contract provisions don't bite. So, the Government is directly funding those, and we have a whole series of things happening there around getting the surveys done and making sure we know what needs to be done in the buildings. And I think I'm right in saying that a couple of those have now started on site as well. And there's the fourth category, which are small developers—so, developers who have built one high-rise building in Wales, or whatever. Not all of those developers are actually small developers; some of them are very big developers, but with a very small presence in Wales. We will expect those to behave the way the big developers did. But some of them are small and medium-sized enterprises and what I don't want to do is drive SMEs out of business because of this situation. So, that's complicated. So, what we'll do is we'll do an individual deal with each of those SMEs around what they can afford to repay and stay in business, and what we can assist them to do to make sure the remediation happens. You can hear that that's a little bit more complicated, but, actually, we're in the process of doing it. So, I don't think we're doing terribly badly. I will say, though, that, if you're a leaseholder sitting in a building where you've been stuck for ages, you won't be very happy to hear me say that. So, I want to reassure people that the remediation programme is now accelerating, and over the next two years we will see almost all of those buildings going into remediation. It has been a long time coming. It's not popular to say, but it has been immensely complicated, it has to be said.


So, generally, then, you're quite happy that these are being done in a timely way?

It would have been lovely to have gone faster, wouldn't it? But, you know, I think we're getting there.

Yes. Okay. Thinking back to I think it was a response to the committee's letter back in May, there was mention of three developers now being invited to sign a contract with the Welsh Government. Is there any update on whether they've actually now signed?

There were three further ones that were identified later—one of which has formally signed, the other two of which are working co-operatively with us, and we're still pressing for them to formally sign. But they are working with us and doing the planning in the way that we want them to do.

Okay. Turning then to some of those leaseholders then, is the Welsh Government now looking at how we can increase the numbers around eligibility for applying for the leaseholder support scheme?

Yes. So, there are two elements to that now. So, we've got the leaseholder support scheme as it's always been. We've loosened the eligibility for that. That scheme is particularly for people who might want to stay in their own flat, but sell it, because they don't want to particularly move, but they're having real affordability issues and so on. But we've also got another scheme where—. If you want to leave, you don't want to live in the flat, we've got a scheme where we can get a registered social landlord or a stock-holding council to buy it direct, so it becomes part of the social property portfolio. So, we'll be running both of them in parallel.

We've got—I can't remember off the top of my head; Emma will be able to tell me—something like 10 have gone through on the leaseholder support scheme. We've had more applications since the last eligibility review. Because we had no idea how many people we were talking about, so we started off with quite tight eligibility, and we've been moving it out as we've realised the numbers are not all that enormous. So, I think we’re probably going to end up with around 20 of them that we've sold. I do like to try and get the publicity out, though, because I still have people writing to me saying, 'Oh, my goodness, what am I going to do?', and we say, 'Why not do this?', and they didn't know about it. And we've tried through Rent Smart Wales to get the information out, and, if Members of the Senedd can get that information out through their networks, I'd be really grateful, because I think there are probably more people out there who would take advantage of it if we could get the information out fast enough.

We have a building safety newsletter sign up. I hope you're all signed up to it. If not, please do sign up to it. That tells you how to get the information out, put it on your websites and so on, and that does a monthly update all the time, doesn't it? And then we've got—. The last bit is that Emma's reminding me that we've been working with the—I can't remember what RICS stands for—


Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

—Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors; there we go—to get the guidance out, which will free up the market, basically, to make sure that the private sector market—. So, it has freed up a bit. You can see, in some parts of Cardiff, there are accelerating sales of flats in high-rise buildings. You can see some of them accelerating quite quickly, because the work's been done, basically. But once this guidance is in place, we think that will give the lenders a lot more confidence about what they can and can't lend on, which has been one of the problems, because of the really complicated issues about the ESW1 forms and so on. I think, Luke, you are familiar with all of that, aren't you, from your casework. So, I think we've tried to come at it from a number of different aspects, and we continue to encourage anyone who's in difficulty to get in touch with us direct and we'll see what we can do.

Just regarding second homes—an update on taking forward a statutory licensing scheme for holiday accommodation.

So, that's not me, I'm afraid; that's my colleague, Dawn Bowden. But I sit on the cross-Government group that's looking at that. My understanding is that that legislation is in train. It's a parallel piece of legislation with the visitor levy legislation, which is being taken forward by Rebecca Evans. I went to a ministerial group on that at the end of last week, was it? I can't remember, quite. And, yes, I think it's on track to come in.

And I think the second question might apply to Rebecca Evans as well, but it was just if you could provide more information on the development of a national framework for land transaction tax, allowing local authorities—it is Rebecca, isn't it—to request an increased rate, yes, for second homes.

Yes. But, obviously, Stuart and others in my department are part of the working group across the Government on that, because obviously it has a housing aspect to it. So, we are involved in the conversations. I don't know, Stuart, if you've got any detail you want to add to that. I'm not personally involved in those conversations; it's Rebecca's portfolio. But, obviously, we have cross-Government working on that.

Well, Sarah's on that particular group, so—

That's okay. That's okay. So, the work is ongoing, and I think where we're at, we're exploring at the moment, and the Minister for finance's officials are looking at the taxation regime for second homes, including consideration of a higher land transaction tax rate, to apply on a regional or sub-regional basis, where there's supporting evidence for that. So, that work and that consideration is ongoing at the moment.

We've discussed previously cadastral mapping of areas of land and how useful that would be. When we're looking, even, at managing landfill, biodiversity, ecology as well, I just think that would be really useful, but may be quite difficult to do, because it's quite unknown who owns what land as well; it's not really mapped very well at the moment. So, I'm just very interested in that—you know, with the land value tax as well, moving forward.

So, I chair the overarching ministerial second homes group, and we've been looking at a range of interventions, particularly in the pilot area in Dwyfor. We are a bit concerned not to have like 12 interventions all happening instantly. Because one of the things we need to do is that we need to be able to understand what intervention is doing what. And also local authorities have quite a lot to do in terms of some of the interventions that we're currently making. So, I would say that, although it's absolutely under consideration, there is an issue about staging some of these things. We don't yet know what some of the interventions we've already made will do, because, obviously, they've only just started. We might have announced them a year ago, but some of them are only just coming in now. So, I do think there's something about understanding what intervention is doing what.

And then the other thing is that you know the Welsh Government has had long ambition to have a land value tax put in place. We've been arguing with the UK Government for years about it. I think that would be really beneficial, because it would stop land banking and all the rest of it. And it would mean that people who put forward land for housing with a view to borrowing money off the back of it would have to pay a tax accordingly, and it would stop that kind of speculative insertion into the local development plan. So, I think it would have quite a lot of benefits, myself. But you'd have to ask Rebecca Evans about where they are in those conversations; that's not my portfolio.


Okay, Carolyn? Okay. Well, Minister, thank you very much, and thank you to your officials, for coming in today to give evidence. We will send you a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.

If you don't mind, Chair, if I say to you: would you mind telling us what we've just agreed to send to you as well, because I think we agreed to send you quite a lot of things? So, if the clerk wouldn't mind giving us a note of that, that would be very helpful. Thank you.

I saw Cath making a careful note, Minister, and I'm sure we will do that. Thank you very much.

3. Papurau i’w nodi
3. Papers to note

Okay. Our next item, then, is papers to note. We have a letter from Disability Wales in relation to the Welsh Government's draft budget for the forthcoming financial year, which we can consider as part of our scrutiny of the draft budget; we have a letter from the Minister for Climate Change to the Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee in relation to the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016; and then a letter to the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution from us in relation to the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill and our scrutiny and the matters that we wished to follow up on. Are Members content to note those papers? Yes. Thank you very much.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod hwn
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this 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 4, then, is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Is committee content to do so? Yes. We will, then, move into private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:46.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:46.