Senedd should “act as though housing is a human right”

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Energy efficient homes, stronger local supply chains, new construction methods and rent policy are amongst the key areas of work a new review panel will undertake on behalf of the Welsh Government, according to the Housing & Regeneration Minister, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower). More from the Members Research Service.

The Welsh Government currently has a target of building 20,000 affordable homes by 2021, with 6,900 completed or sold (via schemes like Help to Buy) as of March 2018. The panel’s task will be to futureproof housing supply policies and ensure the Welsh Government is “investing in the right programmes for the longer term”.

Shadow Housing Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) demanded ambitions be raised; 15-20,000 houses a year were routinely built in Wales from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s – 20,000 homes over 5 years isn’t much to write home about. “In the 1950s, they saw housing and the right to good housing as a basic right for all. It was up there with the right to decent healthcare. That’s what we need again.”

Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central) accused the Welsh Government of being “self-congratulatory”. He focused on a lack of construction skills; the average age of a construction worker is 53 and there was a need to train more of our own people to do this work.

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) had a fundamental problem with the term “affordable” – 2,777 homes bought under Help to Buy were valued at over £200,000 and only 701 were worth less than £150,000. There was also criticism of the lack of resources put into upgrading the energy efficiency of existing social housing stock to reduce fuel poverty.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) wanted more land released to allow smaller builders and councils to build social houses on infill sites. Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly) concurred, adding that leaving affordable housing allocations to private companies, which were often too few in number and over-priced.

Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central) accused Labour of selling out Cardiff and its green fields, allowing large developments that lack proper community facilities.

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) and Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North) both focused on innovation taking place in the housing industry on energy efficiency and the integration of solar power into housing design.

The Minister, whilst acknowledging many of the points raised, finished by saying that while the Senedd can’t legislate to make housing a human right, they can act as though it is in spirit.

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