Only half of the planned affordable homes in Wales have been built

(Title Image: © Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence)

Proposed fire authority reforms hard to justify

Last November, the Welsh Government published a white paper on reforms to fire authorities – more details here.

Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) flagged up growing opposition from fire authorities themselves. He said the fire authorities were arguing that standards hadn’t slipped and there was little in the white paper which justified changing how they worked.

Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), assured fire authorities it was a “genuine consultation” and their views will be properly taken into account – though she defended attempts to reform the service:

“….it’s not a problem to want to review a service that’s been in existence for a very long time and see whether there are things that can be improved. There are things that we’re discussing with firefighters….around widening their roles since they have been very successful in lowering the number of fires across Wales….But it’s a timely look at how they’re organised and whether that’s optimal.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

Only half of affordable homes have actually been built

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) cited statistics from StatsWales suggesting a complete failure to hit affordable housing quotas:

“….local authorities have granted planning permission for housing developments that should have resulted in the provision of 13,355 affordable houses, but only 6,746 have actually been built, which is just over 50% of what we should have had. In some local authorities, the figure is even worse: in Wrexham, for example, just 16% of the affordable homes promised within developments have been delivered.”
– Leanne Wood AM

Leanne accused developers of negotiating down affordable housing requirements and threatening local authorities with the (English-based) Planning Inspectorate if they don’t get their own way. What was being done to stop this?

The Minister broadly agreed there was a problem; councils have lost skilled planners due to austerity and they struggle to negotiate the appropriate level of affordable housing provision as part of Section 106 and similar agreements. The Welsh Government were doing a number of things including encouraging councils to build houses themselves through enhanced borrowing powers and also encouraging skill-sharing.

Welsh Government “will consider” measures to make private tenancies more secure

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) asked whether the Welsh Government will consider changing the law to give private renters more secure tenancies. It was a particular problem for young people with children who could be evicted for no reason and be forced to move at short notice. David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) mentioned plans in England to increase the minimum tenancy period from 6 months to 3 years – though he accepted any changes required full consultation with the sector.

“We’re very much in favour of looking to see whether we can make security of tenure a much more of a reality here in Wales, and we will be working hard with the sector to see whether we can repeal or modify (the relevant laws) in order to give people better security of tenure.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

The Minister said the Renting Homes Act 2016 isn’t yet in force as one more set of regulations requires consultation. She added that “no-fault” evictions were a real scourge and the children of parents who live in insecure rental accommodation were twice as likely to suffer mental health problems.

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