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Shelter Cymru – Home is everything

Rob Simkins reports on the highlights of the recent People and Homes 2021 conference

Shelter Cymru recently held our annual People and Homes Conference, bringing together (virtually!) more than 200 speakers and delegates to talk about what really matters. With a speaker line-up to whet the appetites of all housing policy wonks, delegates were treated to two themed days, focussing on tackling the Welsh housing emergency and looking at where we go next in the fight to end homelessness.

Despite delegates dipping in and out of sessions from the comfort of their own homes and offices, the conference conveyed a sense of urgency in meeting the many challenges we all face. Our recent research painted a bleak picture of over one million people in Wales affected by the housing emergency. One in three of all of us, across every part of Wales. So perhaps then, it was no surprise to see such emotive speakers, presentations and debates.

Day 1 covered many of the burning issues which have been so prevalent in the press recently. Chloe Timperley, author of Generation Rent, kicked us off explaining how and why so many people are struggling to buy their own home – or even to rent a good one. This was followed up by an equally frustrating but insightful session with George Monbiot and Beth Stratford, authors of the 2019 Land for the Many report. George and Beth spoke of land as a major driver of the housing emergency and while praising recent Welsh Government announcements to tackle the ‘grotesque and disgusting’ second homes issues plaguing parts of Wales, we heard that more fundamental action was still necessary.

Day 2 began with an address from Julie James, the new minister for climate change – a ‘super ministry’ which brings together a range of portfolios including housing. The minister outlined Welsh Labour’s plans for housing over the 6th Senedd before being deluged with questions from eager delegates. There were several exciting announcements, including a re-confirmed commitment to ending priority need and intentionality. Shelter Cymru have long called for this commitment so to see it publicly reiterated is a very welcome step. We’re looking forward to helping the Welsh Government deliver on these commitments. The minister took questions from the virtual floor on everything from rent restrictions, to tackling land prices and delivery of the flagship 20,000 low-carbon social homes from Welsh Labour’s winning manifesto.

A key theme running throughout the two days – despite its virtual nature – was the theme of unity and partnership and that home is everything. Perhaps this is what we do well in Wales, that spirit of collaboration. From across the housing sector and beyond, there remains a real drive and desire to make positive change – and a recognition that no one organisation or person is able to deliver this on their own.

So the gauntlet in the fight for home has truly been laid down. It’s time for everyone to deliver. It’s our 40th birthday this year, let’s hope we’re not here in another 40 years!

Rob Simkins is campaigns manager at Shelter Cymru

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