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Affordable housing review – reaction so far

The Independent Review of Affordable Housing Supply has received a warm welcome from across the Welsh housing sector.

The review was launched in Cardiff on Wednesday morning by review chair Lynn Pamment and other members of the panel.

As reported earlier, the report proposes long-term deals on rents and grant and reforms to get more from existing resources but also challenges the sector to be transparent on value for money and affordability.

And it also became clear that the review could also have significant implications for private developers as well as housing associations and local authorities.

Stuart Ropke, chief executive of Community Housing Cymru, said:

‘We very much support the independent panel’s recognition that Welsh Government need to invest more resources so that we can build the affordable social housing needed to meet the scale of the housing crisis in Wales.

‘The panel have worked hard over the last 12 months, and we thank them for their detailed recommendations which have laid down some challenges on rent policy, grant and standards amongst other areas.

‘We look forward to working with Welsh Government, local authorities and other partners to put a framework in place that delivers more of the right types of homes, which are affordable and fit for the future.’

Shelter Cymru said: ‘Wales is in desperate need of more homes that are genuinely affordable which is why the affordable housing review is so important. It can potentially have a big impact on many lives.’

Matt Dicks, director of Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, said:

‘Today has the potential to improve the way housing professionals and organisations work for years to come. The review has put forward recommendations to encourage partnerships to develop more homes across larger areas and measures to enable local authorities to build more and ways to better use public sector land.’

‘We would expect the Welsh Government to adopt the recommendations in full but during that process we must ensure we guard against unintended consequences, particularly around the proposed grant regime – which has raised concerns about a race to the bottom as a more variable approach to grant allocation leads housing organisations to promise ever more homes per pound of grant.’

He also raised the issue of implementation and capacity within Welsh Government to deliver the changes recommended.

Facing questions at the launch, panel members sought to allay fears that changes to the existing system for grant would leave to English-style competition. Smaller, rural and specialist organisations were explicitly supported in the proposed new framework, they said.

Some in the audience remembered what happened after the last major review of Welsh housing – by some estimates only about a third of the recommendations made by the Essex review in 2008 were implemented, a third were partially implemented and a the remaining third disappeared into the long grass.

Lynn Pamment told WHQ that the panel had been conscious of the fate of previous reviews from the start of its work and keen to learn lessons from them.

‘We’ve all given up our time on a voluntary basis for the last 12 months,’ she said. ‘So we do want this to be implemented. We’ve engaged with the sector and with Welsh Government officials and we’re optimistic. The reception we’ve had so far is very encouraging.’

The report recognises the scale of the changes the panel is advocating and recommends significant extra resources for the housing department of Welsh Government.

Housing and local government minister Julie James promised a Welsh Government response to the recommendations by the summer recess in July and so cannot comment in detail yet.

However, speaking at TAI after the launch, she hailed the opportunity of the UK government’s borrowing cap on council housing as ‘one we must take’ and that social housing is ‘my very top priority’.

She said that the drive to boost supply must not become a numbers game: ‘I want to be very clear that this is not about building houses – this is about building homes and communities.’

And she sounded a warning about the size and quality of ‘substandard homes’ that are being delivered by private developers. ‘I want the private sector to stop building the slums of the future,’ she said.


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