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Are you ready for the future?

As the election period draws closer, all four political parties in Wales are developing their election manifestos, settling out their agendas for the next Assembly term. CIH Cymru is of course taking every opportunity to promote what our members see as the crucial issues for housing now and over the next Assembly term. Inevitably this leads us to reflect on how far we have come over the four years of the current One Wales coalition – digging out our 2007 manifesto certainly provides for some interesting reading, both in terms of what progress has been made…… and the challenge that is still ahead!

In 2007 we focused on the very practical and real ways in which housing could benefit the wider agenda, through improving health, educational success, employment and training and delivering a real quality of life for local communities. Some of the specific things we asked for back then included:

  • an increase in the level of Social Housing Grant. We were pleased to see the One Wales coalition increase the social housing grant budget year on year over its first three years (albeit not this year!)
  • for WAG to lobby HM Treasury to end the anomalous treatment of the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy between Wales and other parts of the UK. A Review of the HRA was announced in 2009 and with the support of CIH Cymru and other partners is now making excellent progress towards a better deal for Wales
  • the development of an updated National Housing Strategy by the Welsh Assembly Government. The new strategy Improving Lives and Communities was officially launched at TAI last year after a long process of engagement and is currently being implemented in partnership with the sector
  • the Welsh Assembly Government to acquire the power for local authorities in Wales to suspend the Right to Buy when it is in the best interests of the local housing market as a whole. After considerable work by the Assembly in partnership with the housing sector these powers were achieved via the 2010 Housing LCO and are due to be fully implemented over the next few months
  • secure investment to bring housing stock up to the WHQS and ensure that this investment is used to achieve wider regeneration benefits through procurement, skills development and employment opportunities. Eleven stock transfers later and Wales is a shining example in this area, not least due to the efforts and success of the i2i programme

Despite these notable successes, there are some areas where challenges remain or where progress is still to be made. For example, four years ago we called for the utilisation of all possible mechanisms to significantly increase the provision of affordable housing for rent and sale within a joined up strategic framework at national, regional and local levels. Whilst we acknowledge the range of work that has been undertaken in this arena, the economic downturn has exacerbated both the need to provide affordable housing, and the difficulties associated with delivering it. We also asked that the Assembly fund programmes to build skills and capacity across the housing sector – as housing organisations and their partners increasingly be called upon to ‘do more with less’ in the coming years of austerity, this is an area which in our view will continue to be a priority in order to ensure that housing professionals are well-equipped to not only survive, but thrive in the difficult times ahead.

So, as the 2011 elections draw closer, what else will be asking of the next Welsh Government? In many ways, that’s still for you to decide. Following the success of the Housing PACT at Harrogate this year, we are now asking the housing sector in Wales to work together to develop our own Housing PACT Cymru ahead of the Assembly elections in May.

Over the last few months we have been out and about speaking to members, encouraging all our partners to tell us what issues are important and what areas we should be influencing on the sector’s behalf. The programme at TAI this year has been built around these ‘Housing PACT Issues’ and includes lots of opportunity for delegates to take part in the development of the Pact, culminating in the presentation of the PACT to the leaders of the political parties on the final day of the event.

The PACT will not only set out the detailed ‘asks’ of the Welsh Assembly within a variety of policy areas but will also demonstrate what CIH Cymru can do in return to help support the sector to develop innovative ways to deliver more affordable housing, make better use of existing homes and work with Government in a positive and constructive way to meet the housing challenges that we will face over the next four years. In some ways, this means that the premier housing conference and exhibition of Wales is changing. It is no longer just the arena where the Welsh housing world unites to network, learn and debate the major issues affecting the sector, but a chance to directly influence the future political and policy agenda.

Whilst the details and specific actions within the PACT will be decided at TAI, we know from our consultation to date what the major issues and concerns of our members are – based on this the PACT will be build around 5 key themes:

1. A Welsh Approach: We want the next Government to take a Welsh approach to policy making that meets the specific housing needs and challenges faced here and to develop housing solutions which are appropriate to the particular context in Wales.

2. Meeting housing need: We will be calling for the Assembly to consider what opportunities there are to remodel a more flexible housing system in future and to take a truly cross tenure approach to housing that as well as delivering new and innovative models also makes the best possible use of our existing stock.

3. Raising the bar: We want the Assembly to be aspirational in its vision for housing in Wales, not only in relation to the physical quality of homes across tenures, but in the services that the housing sector provides to tenants and the models of engagement and accountability that are in place.

4. Putting People First: We ask that the Welsh Assembly supports a housing sector in Wales to which really puts individuals at the heart of policy making and practice, and which gives people housing choices which empower them to lead fulfilling lives, regardless of their individual needs or circumstances.

5. The housing advantage: We ask the Welsh Assembly to recognise that housing has the demonstrative capability to strategically to deliver and drive progress in a range of other social and economic areas, including jobs and training, health and the green agenda and to support and enable this progress through their programmes and policies.

Thanks to everyone that has contributed to the development of the Housing PACT Cymru – we hope that it is successful in reflecting a united and powerful voice of the housing sector and that is has a lasting influence in ensuring that housing is clear priority of the next Assembly Government.

New from CIH Cymru – essential information for housing.

Key Information Extra – The Localism Bill – Implications for Housing and Communities in Wales

Available at www.cih.org/cymru/policy

Deputy Minister congratulates Welsh Assembly staff on their achievements

On 9 February 2011, Deputy Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Jocelyn Davies AM, presented 15 members of staff from the Welsh Assembly Government’s Housing Department with their CIH Level 2 Certificates in Housing at a ceremony attended by their colleagues, Head of Housing, Ceri Breeze and CIH Cymru Vice-Chair for Learning & Professional Development, Jane Mudd.

CIH Cymru Learning & Professional Development Manager, Victoria Graham said, ‘The Level 2 Certificate in Housing is part of a broad spectrum of housing qualifications offered by the Chartered Institute of Housing and our partner colleges and universities and it is wonderful to see the Welsh Assembly flying the flag for housing education. It was testament to the hard work and commitment of this very busy group of staff that they achieved a 100% pass rate. Everyone at CIH Cymru would also like to congratulate Alison Gunnion on winning the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award at 2010’s Student Awards Presentation in November.’

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