Plenary Wednesday 07 June 201715:15:18
Spoken Contribution – 15:15:18
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Thank you, Chair, and thanks to the Conservatives for bringing today’s debate on a very important issue of affordable housing, and in particular affordable housing for young people. There are a variety of different ways in which we can take measures to help young people onto the housing ladder, some of which have been tried by the Government here in Cardiff Bay, but problems persist. The major problem that has been identified by other speakers today is house price inflation outstripping wage increases. So, house prices, even in the south Wales Valleys, which a few years ago were known for relatively low prices, are now beyond the reach of many young people.
The average new build in the Rhondda and Cynon valleys seems to be about £160,000 currently. Average wages for young people are probably between about £15,000, which is roughly the minimum wage level, and £20,000. So, as was identified just now—I think Jenny mentioned it as well—the massive problem is getting from those wage levels on to the kind of money that’s needed to get on the housing ladder. You’ve got two problems: one is saving for the deposit and the other is getting a mortgage on a relatively low salary. So, for many young people, new builds are now way out of their price range. Old terraced houses in the Valleys can still be purchased in some places for about £60,000. But Help to Buy only applies to new build. So, I wonder: should there be any extension of this provision or should there be a similar scheme applying to old build properties to help young people get onto the housing ladder through moving into old houses—relatively old houses?
We do have the Government’s schemes at the moment, one of which is rent to own. I have struggled to find much information on this, and Hannah Blythyn raised the issue recently in the Chamber that information on Help to Buy and rent to own was often difficult to access. Many people are simply not aware of rent to own in my experience, and there is very little information on the Government’s own website about this scheme. So, is anything being done to better publicise these schemes?
One of Plaid’s amendments deals with letting agency fees, which is also presenting a problem for young people, as their amendment recognises. We have wanted a ban on unwanted letting agency fees as well in the past. Now, the Minister has intimated recently, I think, that he would be sympathetic to possibly supporting a private Member’s Bill on this subject, and I think he also said he was looking at the evidence from Scotland, where they did bring in a letting agency ban. There were worries that that might drive up rents, as landlords and agencies seek to recoup the lost fees by simply putting up rents, but I’m not sure there was any evidence to suggest that that was happening. So, I wonder: has the Minister now had time to assess the situation that exists in Scotland, and what are his thoughts now on the letting agency fees situation? Thanks.