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One of Labour’s key pledges following the 2016 Assembly election was to deliver 20,000 affordable homes by 2021.
The definition of what’s “affordable” will differ from person to person based on their circumstances, but the Minister for Housing & Regeneration, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower), outlined yesterday the progress made by different support schemes to help meet their pledge.
The situation was starkly outlined with one statistic provided by the Minister which suggests less than half of “Millennials” will own their own home by age 45. As for what the Welsh Government are doing about it, 6,900 homes have been built and sold under the Help to Buy scheme (shared equity loans worth up to 20% of a property’s value to reduce deposit requirements).
£70million is being invested in these home ownership schemes, including Homebuy Wales (aimed at communities with lower housebuilding, like rural areas), Rent to Own and Shared Ownership Wales. Information on these schemes and more is to be delivered via a recently-launched website (Your Home in Wales).
Shadow Housing Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central), believed that if Wales doesn’t have the right housing/house-building targets to aim for we’ll struggle to meet the aspirations of young people – current projections based on current housebuilding targets put Wales 66,000 short by 2031 and the last time the Welsh Government met its annual housebuilding target was 2008.
Plaid Cymru’s housing spokesperson, Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West), welcomed a review of affordable housing supply, but the problem wasn’t just about a lack of housing supply but a failure by the financial system and government to recognise the financial pressures put on households by the increasing cost of living. She also called for a review of the effectiveness of schemes to bring the estimated 43,000 empty properties in Wales back into use.
Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central) said that while alternative housing models were welcome, shared ownership can still be out of reach of many people – particularly the low paid. There were also dangers in making it too easy for people to be approved for mortgages, as mortgages are about more than just paying the deposit but also keeping up with monthly payments. He raised the idea of self-building – which is less popular in the UK than the rest of Europe – which is often not supported by the financial sector or government.
Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) said it was in housebuilders and landowners interests to keep supply (of houses and land) below demand because it props prices up. For his generation, you could often get a mortgage easily in your 20s, but he’s seen many examples of well-educated professionals in their 30s living in privately-rented accommodation. He spoke in favour of co-operative housing, as used in parts of Canada.
Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly) said councils were often under pressure to keep affordable housing targets – which are not compulsory – artificially low in order to encourage development. This kept us “trapped in a housing crisis” and he hoped that small firms could break through and “smash the cartel” of the “Big Four”.
Finally, John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) highlighted a 5% rise in house prices in Newport – particularly amongst lower-priced and affordable housing – since the announcement that Severn Crossing tolls will be abolished. He praised the impact Help to Buy has had in his constituency, but echoed other comments by calling for more innovation in areas such as self-build, empty properties and co-operative housing.