Wales politics

Housing Bill to tackle Wales' rogue landlords and homelessness

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Media captionThe Bill will also give more power to tax empty homes which it is hoped will prevent homelessness and boost the supply of housing

Unscrupulous landlords and family homelessness will be targeted under new legislation covering housing in Wales.

The Welsh government has published its first Housing Bill since it gained full law making powers in 2011.

It said it aims to tackle "questionable practices" of some landlords and the blight of empty homes.

Minister Carl Sargeant said a decent, affordable home was a vital part of everyone's life.

In May 2012 ministers outlined plans to tackle homelessness, improve conditions in private rented homes and provide more housing.

The Welsh government's White Paper - which sets out its intentions for the bill - included a proposal that would see private landlords having to sign a mandatory register before they could take on tenants

It also described the private rented sector as having "extremes" of good and bad practice.

Although there are good landlords, it said some tenants were put in difficult situations by unscrupulous operators, with many enduring "poor conditions, insecurity and, sometimes, threats of eviction".

"The latter, combined with the lack of other options, means that many people, often vulnerable people, put up with the questionable practices of some landlords and lettings and management agents," the white paper said.

"In some cases, it also includes questionable charges and costs."

Other measures in the White Paper included a pledge to tackle the "blight" of empty properties by giving local authorities the power to increase council tax on properties empty for longer than a year.

Launching the bill on a visit to a housing charity in Cardiff on Monday, Mr Sargeant said: "A decent, affordable home is a vital part of everyone's life. The benefits go way beyond the roof over our heads. It's central to good health and well-being.

"A good home represents the best possible start in life for children, and is the foundation for strong, safe and fair communities. It also has an important role to play in the economy."

'Supply crisis'

He said despite the impact of austerity measures taken by the UK government, Welsh ministers were determined to improve the supply, quality and standards of housing.

The bill is also expected to set a goal of ending family homelessness in Wales by the end of the decade.

Conservative housing spokesman Mark Isherwood said the "massive decline" in house building under Labour since 1999 had caused a housing supply crisis.

"Thousands of households are on waiting lists to find a suitable home and many young people are unable to get on the housing ladder," he added.

"The Welsh government's approach is unfortunately unbalanced in favour of the stick rather than the carrot and risks penalising good landlords and deterring people who may wish to bring a home back into use through the private rented sector."

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