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Shaping a Welsh Housing Bill

In the early months of the new Welsh Government, the people of Wales were eager to hear from First Minister Carwyn Jones how the new law making powers achieved in the March referendum would be put to use. Those hoping for housing to be included in the programme were not disappointed, with proposals for a Bill to include action to address homelessness, empty dwellings, as well as improving standards and tenants\’ rights in the private rented sector.

So far, there have been no specific details around what this legislation might look like and the time is right for the housing sector to collectively give some serious thought to what exact problems we are trying to address in Wales and the extent to which these can be solved by a legislative programme. Will new legislation in itself help us to build the 14,000 homes per year that Wales needs to meet our future housing requirements, generate more innovative use of funding or ensure that everyone in Wales has access to a warm affordable home? Probably not. Will it help modernise our approach to homelessness, help us implement the recommendations of the recent Communities and Culture Report on the Private Rented Sector to improve standards of quality security and management in that sector, bring more empty homes back into use and develop more consistency and fairness in tenure arrangements across the social housing domain? If we get it right, then quite possibly yes.

From CIH Cymru’s perspective, we have welcomed the achievement of greater law making powers for Wales in recognition that this presents an unprecedented opportunity to develop Welsh solutions to Welsh issues. Housing Pact Cymru includes ‘A Welsh Approach’ as one of is five major themes. We think that there are real opportunities to take a broad and strategic look at the whole housing system in Wales and to ask some challenging questions about what we should and could do differently.

As yet, there are no dates set for the Bill’s implementation, but a White Paper with further detail is expected this autumn. We will be working hard over the coming weeks and months with Government, CIH Members and our key partners not only to help shape the scope of the Housing Bill, but to act as a ‘critical friend’ in ensuring this is part of a wider strategic and joined up approach to tackling Wales’ housing problems so that whatever the Bill finally looks like, it delivers meaningful and positive outcomes for people and communities of Wales.

Let’s make housing a cross party priority!

Finding common ground between politicians is much more important this time around say Keith Edwards and Vikki Hiscocks.

You can’t argue with the figures. The May elections delivered a straight 50/50 split in seats between Labour and the opposition parties making the delivery of a programme for government extremely difficult. For the housing community, this uncertainty couldn’t come at a worse time. Not only are we seeing reduced public spending on housing and a sluggish private sector, but homelessness is on the rise and the massive implications of welfare changes are just around the corner. True, the WHQS programme will see continued investment in our most deprived communities and innovation from across the sector continues unabated, but the challenges are immense. Decisive political action has never more necessary – but how do we achieve it?

CIH Cymru in partnership with Shelter Cymru have been working with all four parties to build consensus on key housing issues. The work has a number of aspects. Firstly we reviewed the four manifestos to look at where there were common issues and more importantly clear commitments to action. Perhaps surprisingly, there were very few areas of controversy between parties. Encouragingly there were also some important areas were two or more parties were saying similar things. This included action on:

  • the private rented sector
  • empty properties
  • homelessness
  • tenure reform
  • supporting people
  • innovation in funding

Secondly we held meetings with each of the four parties and the Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Minister to pave the way for collaboration on housing. Together with the fifteen members of Homes For all Cymru, we had already re-established the Cross Party Housing Group in the last days of the previous Assembly term. All four parties committed to an early re-launch of the Group and the individual AMs who signed up for their parties is an impressive list:

  • Housing Spokespersons Peter Black for the Liberal Democrats and Mark Isherwood for the Conservatives
  • former Minister Jocelyn Davies for Plaid Cymru
  • founding Chair Sandy Mewies for Labour

Finally, we held an event at the Senedd addressed by the Minister and endorsed by all four parties to which the new intake of AMs was invited – over 12 have confirmed their commitment to the Group.

So having set the Group up on a sound footing, what next? CIH Cymru thinks there are a number of areas for activity over the months ahead:

1. Supporting action on key priorities including reform of the private rented sector, innovation in funding and dealing with empty properties

2. Holding early discussions on what a Welsh Housing Bill might look like

3. Building consensus on UK coalition driven policy areas – we have already held a session with a UK Government Minister

4. Identifying any areas of likely tension and disagreement and brokering discussions to mitigate the impact

Building consensus that endures won’t be easy but there is strong evidence of goodwill within the group to deliver effective housing solutions. The trick will be to maintain this and ensure that the message reaches strategists and planners across the political divide – Wales needs good more quality, affordable homes and vibrant communities; nothing should get in the way of delivering this.

Final shortlists for Welsh Housing Awards 2011

From a field of over one hundred entries, the judging panel have drawn up the following shortlist:

Empowering and involving communities

Community Wellbeing Coaches (Welsh Local Government Association in partnership with Newydd Housing Association)

Working for me (Charter Housing)

Our Business (Gofal)

Participatory Budget (Cartrefi Conwy)

W&M Enterprises (Valleys to Coast Housing)

Most community focussed contractor

Wates Living Space – Reshaping Tomorrow (Wates Living Space)

More than just paint and brushes (Quicksons, nominated by RCT Homes)

At the heart of the community (Cowlin Construction, nominated by United Welsh)

Delivering efficiency and value for money

Welsh Water Debt advice company (Valleys to Coast)

Prevention by Intervention (Charter Housing)

Cardiff Accessible Homes (Cardiff Community Housing Association)

Developing and regenerating communities

Merthyr Valleys Homes Programme (British Gas Community Energy in partnership with Merthyr Valleys Homes)

Building your own future in Sir Gar (Carmarthenshire County Council)

‘Diamond Jubilee’ – the refurbishment and local letting scheme of Jubilee Crescent (Valleys to Coast Housing)

Local letting agreement in Tregaron (Cymdeithas Tai Cantref)

Making the best use of stock

Woodside & Nightingale Court, Newport – \’Turning hard to lets into hard to gets\’ (Newport City Homes)

Sheltered Housing Options Appraisal (RCT Homes)

Stoneleigh Manor More Options Homelessness Project (Wales and West Housing Association)

Developing skills and capacity

Customer Learning and Involvement Programme – CLIP (Flintshire County Council)

Bron Afon’s Learning Development Programme (Bron Afon Community Housing)


Outstanding leadership by a local authority

Securing Gifted Houses for our Local Communities (Flintshire County Council)

Ty Unnos (Conwy County Borough Council with Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd)

Loan Rangers (Powys County Council)

Penywaun CESP Area (Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council)

Outstanding academic progress

Lucy Clewlow (Wales and West Housing Association)

Pauline Thomas (Rhondda Housing Association)

Daniel Dalton (Cymdeithas Tai Cantref)

Community Leader

Wayne Carter (Penrhys Partnership)

Megan Butcher (Valleys to Coast Housing)

Dave Jones (Melin Homes)

Housing Hero

Cecilia Beale (Newport City Homes)

David Davies (Ty Pontrhun Residents Association)

Rose Matthews (Melin Homes)

For more information:

Download the Welsh Housing Awards brochure from our website

Use our online booking form

Request a hard copy of the brochure at [email protected]

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