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Saturday, January 12, 2019

AM challenges First Minister over affordable housing

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has questioned the new First Minister over what action he is taking to address the shortage of new homes in both the social and private sector.

With reports showing that Wales needs at least 12,000 new homes each year, including 5,000 annually in the social sector, and the Welsh Government’s target being only 20,000 ‘affordable’ homes over the full five year Assembly Term, inflated by adding new intermediate rent and low cost home ownership properties to new homes in the social rented sector, Mr Isherwood (pictured) challenged Mark Drakeford  over the shortage in the Assembly Chamber.    

He said: “The average number of new homes delivered by Housing Associations annually in England has risen by a third since 2010, compared to 25 per cent in Wales.

"The average number of new homes delivered by Local Authorities in England is up nearly sevenfold (since 2010) compared to a two-thirds fall, up to 2017-18, in Wales. You referred to removing the borrowing cap (by the UK Government) – and exit from the Housing Revenue Account system (enabled by the UK Government) does enable local authorities to retain income from tenants and invest that in new council housing.

"How will you ensure that that is invested, where practicable, in new housing for social rent, either delivered directly by Councils themselves or where they can get best value for the resource available in partnership with Housing Associations, including the 11 where Local Authorities have already transferred stock to them?”

The First Minister agreed that partnerships between local authorities and housing associations are going to be key to accelerating the availability of housing built for rent in all parts of Wales and stated that “the challenge is everywhere in the United Kingdom”.

He added: “The Member will have seen the report from Shelter today calling for major additional investment in housing for public rent in England. I welcome that report. If it were to be adopted it would lead to a significant Barnett consequential for us here in Wales, which we would be able to put to work.

"As it is, our 20,000 affordable homes target for this Assembly term is amongst the single largest capital investment that we will make as a Government. With the efforts that we are making with the new possibilities that Local Authorities have, we are determined to do everything we can to make sure that we have a building programme that better meets the needs we know are there for decent, affordable housing in all parts of Wales.”  

Mr Isherwood responded: “My figures for England contrasted with those during the previous 13 years of Labour UK Government. However, Labour-led Welsh Government has been responsible for housing in Wales since 1999 and Wales was already lagging behind England when Labour left UK Government in 2010.

"The new First Minister trumpets his Government’s target to deliver 20,000 affordable homes over this 5-year Assembly Term, but successive independent reports showing that Wales needs at least 12,000 new homes each year, including at least 5,000 in the social sector, make a mockery of this."

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