Huw Lewis, Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage
As set out in the Programme for Government, our aim is to provide more affordable homes, better homes, and better housing services and support, particularly for vulnerable people.
There is great pressure to provide affordable housing across Wales and we are aware that there is not enough to meet the need. At the same time as Welsh Government budgets are reducing, the levels of housing need are increasing.
Managing reducing budgets is a challenge and is unfortunately something we have to face for the foreseeable future. It is therefore vital we make existing budgets stretch further. I also want to secure alternative ways of bringing new money into the housing sector and also new approaches to housing, such as co-operative housing and innovations such as the Welsh Housing Partnership.
To demonstrate our commitment to this, I am setting a target of 7500 additional new affordable homes to be delivered during the term of our Government. Within this, I also have ambitions for co-operative housing and affordable housing delivered on ex-public sector land and I am setting a target of 500 for each to drive both of these forward.
This target is ambitious. However, it is vital that we provide this much needed housing, which will not only satisfy people’s housing requirements but will also create jobs and training opportunities and help stimulate the economy.
We will create the 7,500 additional new affordable homes and a key component will be continuing to direct capital investment through the Social Housing Grant Programme. We have already demonstrated our commitment to this by investing additional Social Housing Grant funding of £22M to bring the total in 2011-12 to £97M.
To make our budgets go further, we have also provided flexibility and reduced the grant rate from 58% to 25% for homes at intermediate rental levels, such as Rent First. An even lower grant rate of 19% has been achieved for the Welsh Housing Partnership pilot this year.
I am committed to accelerating our programme for releasing surplus public sector land for housing. I have expanded the dedicated team to take this forward. I have also supported Special Purpose Vehicles to deliver housing on public sector and Welsh Government land, such as the housing proposals at Ely Bridge, Cardiff.
I am developing new and innovative ways to access housing such as co-operative housing and mutual home ownership and am working towards securing the best position to exit the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system.
Building new homes is important but so too is making best use of our existing homes, for example, bringing empty properties back into use. We have invested £5 million in the new ‘Houses into Homes’ national programme. This enables local authorities to offer interest free, recyclable loans to owners to renovate empty properties and return them to use as homes for sale or rent. I am setting a target of 5000 empty properties to be brought back into use during the term of our Government as I believe this will have a real impact on many communities across Wales.
Details of other actions we will take to build on this work will follow in my White Paper. We are in a time of significantly reducing capital budgets. We must innovate and work in partnership with the housing sector to maximise our delivery of housing.
Achieving these targets we will deliver a total of 12,500 homes for the people of Wales. This is an ambitious goal, but one I believe is deliverable if we endeavour to work together with key housing stakeholders, including housing providers, housing funders and the voluntary sector. This is set at a time of great budgetary pressure, but I am confident that partnership working, flexibility and determination to find new solutions, will prevail.
This is a clear signal of our commitment to housing and how we intend to innovate and work together to deliver housing that is affordable, of a good standard and is accessible to a range of people’s needs.