A proposal to place limits on rent prices was voted down in the Senedd today, after Labour members abstained.

In a Plaid Cymru debate, members were urged to carry on Aneurin Bevan's "radical tradition" in Wales by curbing "unreasonable" rent hikes.

The party's housing spokesperson, Mabon ap Gwynfor, proposed introducing a system that would restrict rent to "affordable" levels in Wales - a policy that was agreed to as part of the Labour/Plaid Co-Operation Deal last year.

But many Labour members abstained from the vote, and the proposal was rejected.

Labour members Carolyn Thomas, Jack Sargeant, Mike Hedges voted in favour, however, as did Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds.

 

The news comes after new figures showed Wales had seen among the highest rent increases in the UK since the pandemic began.

Sioned Williams, Plaid's equalities spokesperson, said of the issue: "Housing is one of the most basic human needs, but this need can be exploited.

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"Many of the problems that we discuss day-in-day-outwith our constituents are related to the housing emergency which has engulfed our communities.

"Be in no doubt that this is an emergency, and it is hitting the poorest and most vulnerable in our society the hardest.

"We must act to protect them.

The National Wales: The debate was called by Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid's housing spokesperson . (Picture: Huw Evans Agency)The debate was called by Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid's housing spokesperson . (Picture: Huw Evans Agency)

"Uncontrolled increases in rents are forcing too many tenants to pay landlords an unreasonable and ultimately, unsustainable,proportion of their limited income."

Williams argued that the high cost of living "disproportionately" hit those on lower incomes, a problem recently highlighted by celebrity chef Jack Monroe, who calculated that the cost of budget, "value price" food had risen much more steeply in recent years than more high-end food.

 

“We know that women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, young people, refugees, disabled people and LGBTQ+ people are all disproportionately affected by economic structures that penalise those on low incomes," Williams said, adding that these groups already faced discrimination and barriers to accessing housing.

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“Poverty limits your freedom to enjoy an enjoyable and authentic life, but even the possibility of being plunged into poverty or losing your home is enough to curtail your freedom," she added.

“So long as landlords continue to have the capacity to arbitrarily raise rent, tenants will continue to live under a dark cloud of economic uncertainty.

"We carry the mantle of the giants of Wales's radical tradition.

"Fellow Members, let's show we are the inheritors of that radical tradition."

"Rent controls" is an umbrella term for measures that place limits on what price a landlord can charge their tenant for a home.

Some versions of the policy set rents at a particular price, while others are based on a person's income - for example, stopping landlords from charging a person more than 20 or 30 percent of their monthly pay.

Recent polling by YouGov found that the majority of the UK public support the idea, with 67 percent of people in favour.

 

Mabon ap Gwynfor, who called today's debate, said that, despite being a landlord himself, he believed controlling rent is "the right thing to do".

Like Sioned Williams, the Dwyfor Meirionydd MS also invoked iconic Welsh political figures in his argument for the policy.

"History is testament to the fact that, at times of pressing crises, governments take action to show that they are there to protect and help, providing a shield against the worst impacts," he said.

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"Following the second World War, what did Attlee and Bevan do? 

“They went about implementing the recommendations made in the Ridley Report- they strengthened rent controls, and embarked on a major programme of building public housing.

“Aneurin Bevan himself spoke about the need to safeguard tenants.

“The people of Wales look to us today to do what we can to prevent them from falling into poverty following huge post-Covid challenges."

This sentiment was echoed by Labour MS Mike Hedges, who represents Swansea East, who called the policy a "socialist solution" that would increase the availability of homes for first-time-buyers by reducing the incentive for landlords to buy properties up themselves.

“It’s something that the Wilson government brought in, which worked very well," Hedges added.

“The Tories in the 1980s got rid of it, and we have an opportunity to bring it back in for the benefit of everyone renting in Wales."

The National Wales: Welsh Conservative Janet Finch-Saunders said that rent controls would hurt, not help, tenantsWelsh Conservative Janet Finch-Saunders said that rent controls would hurt, not help, tenants

Other disagreed. 

Conservative MS Janet Finch-Saunders, who declared that she herself is a landlord, said that the policy would harm tenants, rather than help them.

“Private landlords, financial brokers, are telling me that they or their clients are fed up now, with so many controls being placed upon them - when all they want to do is provide good-quality accommodation for a fair rent in return.

“Many are now selling up their stock or moving over to the holiday let. 

“In fact, between 2018 and 2019 and 2021, Wales has seen over 4,500 private landlords leave the sector.

"And, Minister, you can shake your head, but I have that figure, firmly, provided to me by Rent Smart Wales themselves, in black and white.”

She added: “Your proposal, Mabon, would make that wave a tsunami of landlords leaving, and the casualties will be the very people that you actually think you're trying to help. 

“There is no greater example of the failure of socialism in Wales than the absolute carnage that Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru are making of our housing sector.”

For a full summary of today's vote, see here.

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