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Editorial – January 2012

There is little debate about the need for additional housing – across all tenures, but particularly housing affordable to low income households. The Minister has recently made a commitment to establishing a target for new homes – but wants it to be broader in scope than solely new homes built by registered social landlords, whether with or without the support of Social Housing Grant.

But the big question is how new homes to meet ever increasing levels of need can be funded. We now know the details of the Welsh Government budget for 2012-13. Although the overall picture is not positive, work on bringing empty homes back into use has been given a boost by the allocation of £5 million for local authorities to develop a recyclable loan scheme.

We also know that money will be coming to Wales as consequentials from both the freezing of council tax and elements of the Chancellor’s autumn statement. In terms of the former, nearly 50% of the total of £38.9 million has been allocated to housing; £6 million will be invested in the Ely Mill Housing Project in Cardiff over the next two years, £9.26 million to deliver 130 affordable homes across Wales, and a further £3 million to expand the Arbed home energy efficiency scheme. In terms of the autumn statement, £216 million will be available. Housing is well placed to use this money wisely – creating homes, jobs and training places, contributing to communities and combining public investment with other sources.

Some thinking about how to fund new affordable housing may emerge from the Communities, Local Government and Equality Committee inquiry which has received more than 30 submissions of evidence. Most submissions note the need for an holistic approach to tackling the shortage of housing supply. In addition, many submissions also emphasise the continuing role for government subsidy to ensure housing is affordable to those on low incomes and make the case for prioritising capital investment in housing due to its potential for generating economic and social benefits while adding to the number of homes. Significant consensus is also emerging on this issue at a political level. In December 2011, the Cross Party Housing Group wrote to the First Minister asking for a meeting to discuss the prioritisation of the additional resources available following the Chancellor’s autumn statement. Perhaps we are seeing some green shoots in the middle of winter?

Tamsin Stirling

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