Welsh Government's housing white paper
On the 21st May 2012, the Minister for Housing Regeneration and Heritage, Huw Lewis, officially launched his proposals of reform to the Social Housing sector of Wales.
At the launch of the paper, Mr Lewis recognised the ambitiousness of setting the target to end all family homelessness in Wales by 2019 but noted that "housing is fundamental to delivering many of our goals as a progressive government".
The Paper itself acknowledges the difficult times we all live in today and that some factors which will drive change, for example Welfare Reform, are beyond the powers of the Welsh Government. Yet aside from these limitations, the Paper has been well received throughout Wales receiving praise from Consumer Focus Wales, Shelter Cymru and Cadwyn Housing Association.
The Paper notes the importance of both legislative and non-legislative changes in Wales and include:-
- placing a statutory duty on local authorities to prevent homelessness and strengthening the strategic role of local authorities to identify and address local housing issues;
- tackling the extensive problem of empty properties;
- ensuring Gypsy and Traveller communities are provided with new housing sites where there is clear evidence of need;
- introducing a mandatory registration
- an accreditation scheme for private sector landlords; and
- to provide further opportunities for tenants and service users to influence the delivery of social housing.
The Welsh Government recognises that the need for safe, warm, comfortable shelter is one of the most fundamental human instincts and further, that it is their responsibility to ensure that every citizen in Wales has the opportunity to live in a good, energy efficient home that is affordable. The mammoth task ahead of them is clear, there are approximately 22,000 long-term empty homes in Wales not all of these are currently fit for occupation. On top of this, it has been estimated that some 9,200 new market homes are required annually to satisfy demand. Implementation of the Bill will require a focused effort from the Welsh Government and support from all those involved in delivering social housing.
The policy is set to put Wales’ Social Housing Agenda at the forefront of modern policy. As recognised by Shelter Cymru, "A gradual phasing out of the priority need test, coupled with a new corporate duty on local authorities to assist anyone who is threatened with homelessness to achieve a suitable housing solution, will set Wales apart as a nation committed to tackling the root causes of homelessness and providing assistance fairly."
With the implementation of the Bill planned for Autumn 2013, additional resources are also being made available by the Welsh Government to deliver a Welsh Housing Bond, extend the Welsh Housing Partnership and develop a Welsh Mortgage Guarantee Scheme. The latter providing mortgage guarantees to first time buyers of up to 95% for new build homes.
The Paper is available through the Welsh Government website and will remain open for consultation until the 17th August 2013.