(Title Image: Audit Wales)
Pandemic “should prompt long-lasting changes to the housing market”
Delyth Jewell MS (Plaid, South Wales East) cited several examples of ways in which the housing market and planning system were broken.
There was the issue of second homes and holiday lets pricing locals out of communities, council tax loopholes which allow second home owners to reduce their tax bill (or avoid it) as well as issues around the quality of new housing developments and cuts to affordable housing quotas by planning inspectors.
“….there’s a lot that I think that our two parties do agree on: we agree that more affordable homes are needed; we agree more social housing is needed, and new estates should be supported by properly funded infrastructure….And we agree that they should be as estates built around the principles of active travel and the Future Generations Act….But my office has seen correspondence from one planning department that ignores the remarks you made a year ago in this Chamber that the Future Generations Act should take precedence over LDPs produced prior to that Act.”
– Delyth Jewell MS
Minister for Housing & Local Government, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), looked at the bright side – increased general interest in housing in Wales was a sign Wales was becoming a more attractive place to live.
There were several policies coming down the line to help, including changes to eligibility for Welsh Government funding for leasehold developments and the introduction of regional bodies to aid planning decisions.
Additionally, there’s been an effort by the government to ensure that new planning requirements come into effect immediately. This is to ensure developers can’t get permission for new developments that would be subject to old/outdated rules for however long that consent lasts – which is why some developments fall short in terms of infrastructure etc.
Local information will guide LDP housing targets
With projected household growth in Flintshire and Wrexham revised downwards, Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood MS (Con, North Wales), asked whether these new, lower projections would be used to revise housing targets for Local Development Plans – which often prove to be controversial or are considered to be set too highly.
The answer was “yes”.
“You’ll know that we suspended the five-year future housing protection some time ago….because we thought the growing number of planning authorities in Wales who don’t have an existing LDP were causing serious problems with speculative planning applications around their edges. So, we’ve assisted local authorities in doing that, and we expect them to come forward with proper projections based on the local information that you’ve just outlined, for example, for Flintshire, although I’m not going to be making comments on individual authorities here.”
– Minister for Housing & Local Government, Julie James