Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
I am pleased to announce, after four years of this five year term of Government, a total of 7,560 long–term empty homes have been brought back into use. This is a considerable achievement against the ambitious target we set of 5,000. It is in no small part thanks to the introduction of our innovative empty properties loan scheme, Houses into Homes.
The latest publication of the National Strategic Indicators for Local Authorities shows the success of action to bring long-term empty properties back into use this term. Our Houses into Homes scheme has been fundamental to this, not only in terms of what it has achieved, but the broader effect it has had in galvanising local and regional action. It has increased the number of long-term empty homes brought back into use annually from 1,076 in 2011-12, the year before the scheme was launched, to 3,089 in its third year, 2014-15.
The final report of the three-year independent evaluation of Houses into Homes has been published today. It highlights the scheme’s success and all the good work it has done in terms of raising the profile of the problems empty properties can create and the help which can be provided to turn them back into much needed homes again.
The evaluation was commissioned at the outset of the scheme and has been carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam, and I am grateful for the work undertaken. The report can be found online.
The Report has made a number of recommendations for further improvements to what is already a successful scheme. I welcome the recommendations, which I will consider as part of my desire to see the scheme not only to continue its excellent work, but to expand and develop further the role it plays in increasing local housing supply.
Transforming more than 7,500 vacant properties into homes for people across Wales is a magnificent achievement of which we are very proud. I want to pay tribute to the considerable efforts of Local Authorities and the collaboration between them. The drive and determination shown by officers and elected Members in partnership with the Welsh Government and other organisations, has been fundamental to the achievement. I am delighted we have exceeded our Programme for Government commitment, with more than a year to go. Vacant properties are not only a wasted resource in terms of housing; properties falling into disrepair are unsightly in our communities and can also be associated with increased incidences of vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
In addition to the £20 million which has been provided to Local Authorities, a further £10 million has been made available to Local Authorities this year, to maintain the success and momentum achieved so far. These latest figures are a clear marker of our continued commitment to the Welsh housing sector and meeting housing need. In doing so, we are boosting employment in the construction industry across the whole of Wales.