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£20m backing for innovative homes

Communities and children secretary Carl Sargeant has announced a new programme to deliver innovative models of housing to help increase the number of homes built in Wales. 

The programme, which will initially be funded by £20m over the next two years, will contribute to the 20,000 affordable homes target the Welsh Government aims to provide over this term of government. The hope is that innovative homes will help to significantly reduce or eliminate fuel bills and inform the Welsh Government about the type of homes it should support in the future.

The cabinet secretary made the announcement at the Innovative Housing Design Conference at the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday. This is jointly hosted by the Welsh Government, The Welsh Local Government Association and Community Housing Cymru. He said:

‘The housing sector in Wales is facing many challenges. We know we need to build more homes, quickly. We know the homes we build have to be cheaper to heat, more environmentally friendly and more capable of responding to the demographic challenges ahead.

I’m looking for new ideas, new ways of doing things, both in terms of what we build and how we build them. We need to start looking at more innovation, at homes that can be built faster as panels in factories or whole units delivered to site on lorries. We need to look at what homes are made from and what else they offer in terms of fuel bills, carbon emissions, jobs.’

To qualify for support under the programme, homes must:

  • be deliverable quickly
  • be affordable and meet housing need
  • create jobs and training opportunities, supporting Welsh businesses wherever possible
  • significantly reduce or erase fuel bills and carbon emissions
  • be healthy and comfortable to live in, reflecting the needs of the resident
  • be certified for quality.

Carl Sargeant went on:

‘My ambition is to start changing the type of homes built in Wales. Homes that are capable of being delivered at speed and cost and recycled, not just reused, if needs change. Homes that help to meet the challenges of climate change, fuel poverty and changing demographics with the huge pressures that puts on our health and social care budgets.’

Community Housing Cymru (CHC) chief executive Stuart Ropke said:

‘CHC welcomes this latest investment by Welsh Government into innovative solutions for the housing crisis in Wales. Housing solutions need to be adaptable and flexible so that the sector can continue to provide a wide range of options for more people, and funding from this programme to turn aspiration into delivery will be key to this. The sector is up for the challenges set out in the Housing Supply Pact announced last December and we will continue to work with Welsh Government and WLGA to meet the 20,000 target.’

WLGA spokesperson for housing, Councillor Dyfed Edwards, said:

‘Local authorities have a full role to play in enabling and delivering the homes we need across Wales, and it is important that with this increased focus and investment in housing we do not miss the opportunity to explore new models of housing that deliver more efficient and affordable homes.’

As well as the keynote speech from the Cabinet Secretary, the Innovative Housing Conference is hearing from a range of speakers including Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe and experts in innovative housing such as Glen Peters from Western Solar who built Wales’ first solar village in Pembrokeshire.

Other examples from around Wales include:

  • Hafod Housing Association was the first housing association in Wales to move its tenants into environmentally-neutral homes. Hafod’s properties in the Broadlands development in Bridgend are innovative ‘PassivHaus’ designs which hold the highest possible environmental standard.  The houses are airtight with extra insulation to provide superior thermal performance that removes the need for a traditional heating system. This means they can be heated and cooled very easily, reducing carbon emissions and energy bills.  Hafod was awarded the Quality Approved PassivHaus certificate from the Building Research Establishment for the two properties, which were built in 2011 by local contractor Holbrook Construction, but now owned and managed by the housing association.
  • Larch House in Ebbw Vale was the UK’s first ever affordable zero carbon Passivhaus. Built as a prototype social housing for the 2010 National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale, United Welsh and partners Blaenau Gwent Council, bere:architects and Pendragon Design and Build, worked collaboratively to showcase the Passivhaus concept, with the support of BRE and Welsh Government.  The roof of Larch House is fitted with photovoltaic solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity, providing 2800 kilowatt hours per year.  It is also fitted with a solar thermal system that supplies approximately 60% of the home’s annual hot water requirements.  In 2012, Nyree Jones, her husband Anthony and daughters Shannon-Lee and Demi won a competition to live in Larch House.

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