Consultation pitches 20,000 new homes for Wales

Plaid Cymru says some 2,500 homes are needed per year to meet social housing demand.

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Wales needs a further 20,000 homes to meet social housing demand, says Plaid Cymru in a bid to push the build rate up to an additional 2,500 homes a year.

With the Welsh Government’s ongoing review of affordable housing pitched as providing the sector with a once in a generation opportunity, Plaid Cymru has put out a consultation paper on future supply.

As outlined by Plaid Cymru shadow housing minister Leanne Wood, the consultation calls on developers, housing associations, councils and communities, to work collaboratively on new developments and the LDP process – with suitable locations and the services required to make communities work identified.

The consultation sees scope for large developments to be planned in partnership with councils and housing associations, to substantially increase the proportion of social housing in these developments and create mixed communities – with the “voice of local communities” strengthened in the planning system so that new developments are sustainable and accompanied by investments in public services.

By Plaid Cymru’s numbers, that increase is a further 20,000 homes built to a rate of an additional 2,500 a year.

Wood said: “We often hear about the ‘housing crisis’, and it has become commonplace to summarise the wide and complex range of issues as ‘we need to build more houses’.

“This has been used by developers to weaken planning restrictions and building regulations. In addition, developments have been pushed through without adequate investment in infrastructure, causing strain on the resources and services of local communities.

She added: “Plaid Cymru are committed to developing long-term, sustainable solutions to answer the challenges Wales faces, and so we have undertaken research in to Wales’s housing crisis, and, crucially, how we can solve it.”

Plaid Cymru wants the “voice of local communities” to be strengthened in the planning system, so that new developments are sustainable and accompanied by investments in public services.

Community Housing Cymru (CHC) welcomes the ambition set out by Plaid Cymru.

CHC Public Affairs Manager Aaron Hill said associations in Wales were focused on an ambition to build 75,000 new homes by 2036 as part of a vision of Wales where good housing is a basic right for all.

“And we stand ready to work with all those who share that aim,” said Hill.

“Welsh Government’s ongoing review of affordable housing has provided the sector with a once in a generation opportunity to create a policy environment to enable future developments and innovation, and continued and consistent support for housing associations is key to ensuring we tackle the housing crisis.”

Plaid Cymru has already claimed councils in Wales are still failing to use their powers to tackle the blight of empty homes.

The party’s investigation found 14 councils reported their intention to apply a council tax discount of 50% to empty properties for 2019-20, while six reported an intention to apply a discount to second homes.

This was found to be in addition to nine local authorities intending to charge a council tax premium on long-term empty properties and seven that have reported intention to charge a premium on second homes.

There are around 26,500 empty homes in Wales.

Wood said the stats showed councils in Wales had failed to effectively use their powers to tackle the blight of empty homes.

She said: “Instead, they are reinforcing the problem, not only should discounts for empty or second homes be removed, punitive rates should be imposed on empty or second homes.

“We are currently in a situation where those who can afford second homes are offered a subsidy in the form of council tax discounts, whereas there is no such assistance for those on low wages and insecure employment to get on the housing ladder.

“The system is unequal and local authorities need to start taking this issue seriously and use the powers they have to tackle the housing crisis in Wales. Empty homes are a clear source of housing supply.”

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