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Minister hails doubled funding for low-carbon social homes

Climate change minister Julie James has hailed one of Wales’s first ‘positive energy’ social housing schemes as ‘an exemplar’ for developers, housing associations and councils to follow in the drive to build 20,000 new low carbon homes for rent.

Visiting Wales & West Housing’s Rhiw Cefn Gwlad scheme in Bridgend, the minister confirmed an initial £250m towards the pledge in 2021/22 allocated in the Budget in March and said Welsh Government had doubled funding for social housing for rent.

The ambitious plans will address a rising demand for housing and the climate crisis, providing good quality and affordable green homes to those who need them.

All homes will be built to bold new quality and environmental standards with the aim for some of the stock to go beyond net zero and produce more energy than they use. A further announcement on this is expected before the end of this month.

The 14-home development in Bridgend has made use of the latest technical innovations in renewable energy, from exhaust air heat pumps integrated with mechanical ventilation, to large solar photovoltaic roof systems coupled with a Tesla battery system.

The residents who moved in to their homes in January this year received their first negative energy bill in March, meaning the excess energy their homes have generated has already been pumped back into the national grid. The project featured in an article in the Spring issue of WHQ

Cai Phillips and his partner Abigail Rees moved into their two-bed home at Rhiw Cefn Gwlad with their three-year-old daughter Olivia after living with their parents in Bridgend.

Cai said:

’The systems built into the house are really easy to use. The house is so well insulated that the temperature hardly drops below 20 degrees. Even on some of the coldest days in winter we didn’t need to put the heating on.

‘I can control the heating from an app on my phone and I have learnt how to save energy by using the battery to self-power the house. We are paying just £20 a month for our electric bills and are in credit on our bills, which is amazing. The house is perfect.’

Allyn King, his wife Anne-Marie and their three children aged between 10 and 17, moved into their new 4-bed house at Rhiw Cefn Glwad in January 2021.

Before moving to Rhiw Cefn Gwlad the family were spending around £250 per month on electricity and gas for heating, washing and drying. Their payments have been drastically reduced thanks to the technologies built into the homes.

Allyn said:

‘The house is amazing. In our old house we were spending around £250 on electricity and gas for heating, washing and drying. Now we are paying £19.33 a month direct debit on our electricity. We have built up more than £250 in credit during the summer which will be really helpful going into the winter.

‘The battery is fantastic, it stores the electricity from the roof for when we need it. I also have an app on my phone so that I can control the heating and hot water when I am away from home to save even more energy.

‘The extra money we are saving in our household has allowed us to spend more on healthy, fresh food and save for our children’s school uniforms and special occasions.’

The minister said:

‘Hearing how much Cai, Allyn and other residents have been saving on their household bills today, and the difference their new, high quality home has made to their wellbeing, reinforces my confidence that our ambitious housing plan is going to make a real difference to the people of Wales.

‘We have doubled our money – committing a quarter of a billion pounds this financial year, so we can get on and build 20,000 new low carbon homes for rent.

‘This goes beyond Welsh housing need estimates.

‘We are building at scale to address the supply and demand imbalance, homelessness, the growing second homes crisis, and the climate emergency. We are building high quality homes to make a difference to people’s quality of living. And we are ensuring the decisions we make today are the right ones for our future generations.’

Climate change minister Julie James with Rhiw Cefn Gwlad resident Penny Hoey


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