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Increasing affordable homes requires understanding of need

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing / Shutterstock_509223637

A new approach to understanding housing need in Wales is required to increase and improve the quality of affordable homes, an independent review has concluded.

The review, led by Lynn Pamment, took place over the past year. The panel featured RTPI Cymru director Roisin Willmott OBE FRTPI and Professor Kevin Morgan, professor of governance and development in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University.

The panel recommends that the Welsh Government should mandate local authorities to provide Local Housing Market assessments (LHMAs) based on a consistent timetable, data and methodology across housing tenures. They should be refreshed every two years and rewritten.

The level of detail in the LHMA process should be enhanced to better capture the range of needs that “might otherwise be ignored”. More attention should be given to the requirements of older and younger age groups, and people with disabilities and other needs, as well rural housing and the demand for community housing trusts and self build.

Housing and planning departments at local authorities should collaborate on the work required to better integrate the production and reconciliation of the conclusions of LHMA and local development plan (LDP) processes. This would, says the panel, bring greater clarity and cohesion to the local assessment of housing requirements and make better use of limited resources.

Willmott said: “Through our meetings, the panel was able to develop a view on how to make better use of existing resources in order to increase genuinely affordable housing output, enhance standards and improve value for money.

“Understanding housing need is a key part of this – it is a vital way of determining what should be built and where investment should be made. The panel agreed that the basis of good housing policy and decisions regarding affordable housing supply stems from the best possible data on housing need and demand.”

Pamment, a senior partner at PwC, said: “This review offers Wales a unique opportunity to make groundbreaking improvements to the supply and quality of affordable housing, recommending longer-term certainty for local authorities and housing associations, while balancing the continuing pressures on the public spending available to support housebuilding. Importantly, it also offers flexibility and a greater level of self-determination for ambitious organisations.”

Julie James, housing and local government minister, said she would consider the report “carefully” as the Welsh Government looks to build on its ambitions to increase affordable housing in Wales.

Independent Review of Affordable Housing Supply also recommends:

  • The Welsh Government should introduce a requirement for all new affordable homes to be near zero carbon/EPC ‘A’ using a fabric first approach from 2021, supplemented by technology (renewables) if required.
  • The Welsh Government should continue to support the trialling of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to help establish which methods can contribute to the objective of increasing the scale and pace of affordable housing with the existing resources available.
  • The Welsh Government should develop a strategy to map out how Wales could further use off-site manufacturing (OSM) and MMC to deliver near zero carbon homes along with an appropriate timetable for achieving this.
  • The Welsh Government should implement a five-year rent policy from 2020-21, providing stability for tenants and landlords.
  • The Welsh Government should encourage local authorities (LAs) to use the flexibilities that the lifting of the borrowing cap creates to support delivery of new affordable housing supply. Where appropriate, LAs should have the freedom and flexibility to access grant from the Welsh Government direct or through wholly owned Local Housing Company structures.
  • An arm’s-length body should be established by the Welsh Government to act as a hub for public sector land management and professional services.
  • The Welsh Government should mandate the mapping of all public land and require owners to publish the development potential for the land they own.
  • Local authorities should be encouraged to make better use of CPO powers to help bring forward more land for housing, and to facilitate the development of existing public sector land.

Independent Review of Affordable Housing Supply can be found on the Welsh Government website (pdf).

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