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Minister responds on affordable housing

Housing minister Julie James will accept all but one of the recommendations of the Independent Review of Affordable Housing Supply and has also written to planning authorities across Wales to emphasise that local development plans must support sites made up of at least 50 per cent affordable housing.

In an oral statement to the Assembly today (Tuesday), she will say that:

  • The five-year rent policy will be announced before the summer Assembly recess
  • A new approach to grant funding for housing associations and local authorities is needed and Welsh Government will work with local authorities and housing associations to develop this
  • Ambitious local authorities will be able to access housing grant to build more council houses at pace and scale
  • Welsh Government is considering establishing a body to support how best to use of public sector land to create more housing
  • All housing irrespective of tenure must have the same quality standards such as space and energy efficiency
  • The housing sector will be consulted on a new strategy to expand the use of off-site manufacturing and modern methods of construction to deliver near zero-carbon homes.

The minister will respond to the remaining recommendation from the affordable housing supply on Help to Buy (that it should continue with a lower price cap and a focus on first-time buyers) in the Autumn.

Julie James said:

‘I am clear that our significant investment in affordable housing must be used as effectively as possible, where it is needed most. This is why I am taking action based on the review recommendations.’

Her letter to local authorities is aimed at ensuring that they are taking all opportunities to create housing developments with at least 50% affordable housing.

She explained:

‘With the removal of the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap, and support from Welsh Government to build affordable housing, I want them to ensure this is a key part of reviewing their Local Development Plans.’

Lynn Pamment, Cardiff office senior partner at PwC, led the Independent Review of Affordable Housing Supply, which published its report in April.

The initial reaction from housing organisations was positive.

Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive at Community Housing Cymru said:

‘The mnister’s intention to ensure half of all homes built in Wales are affordable is hugely ambitious, and housing associations are up for that challenge. We want to see a Wales where good housing is a basic right for all and that means working together in new ways to tackle the housing crisis.

‘Housing associations have always put affordability at the heart of their rent setting, and we are pleased to see the minister focus on this in today’s response. Welsh Government now has a real opportunity to support genuine, robust and meaningful decision making between landlord and tenant, by providing a long term, sustainable rent settlement this Summer.

‘We look forward to working with Welsh Government, local authorities and other stakeholders to deliver on the recommendations. With continued investment from Welsh Government, we will look at new ways to innovate with key partners, to ensure we deliver more homes, which are genuinely affordable and fit for the future.”

CIH Cymru director Matt Dicks said:

‘Despite the massive effort by all involved to date in this process, we must remain grounded and remind ourselves that this is the start of a process that we must now work to implement in practise. All the while recognising the consequences if we fail to act on the evidence where in all likelihood, our social housing waiting lists will continue to grow, our homelessness challenges become even more profound and our ability to tackle poverty hindered further.

‘We strongly welcome the Minister’s proactive engagement with planning authorities to encourage sites to be supported that include at least 50 per cent affordable housing. To support this, the Welsh Government must meet the aspirations outlined in the review with long-term investment to back the supply of the right kind of homes underpinned by a commitment to ensuring these efforts benefit those communities where affordable homes are sorely needed, in the form of sustainable jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities.

‘We also note that the minister will announce the five-year rent policy before the summer recess and would urge her to find the right balance that provides affordable rent levels whilst allowing housing organisations to continue planned development.’

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