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03/12/2020

Future Wales must not underestimate the importance of new private sector housing

Housing estate / iStock: 163930328

Future Wales' emphasis on affordable housing in its policy proposals for the next National Development Framework undervalues the importance of private market housing in meeting the nation’s housing needs, argues Gareth Williams

The ‘Future Wales’ policy proposals may lead to the lowest level of private sector ‘market-priced’ new housing for over 45 years.

‘Future Wales’ which is currently being scrutinized by the Senedd, outlines the policy ambitions of the Welsh Government and features a significant commitment to support the delivery of additional affordable homes.

In what it terms a ’shift in the delivery model’ it says it intends to oversee the delivery of 7,400 new homes annually over the next five years with 48 per cent – 3,500 a year – being in the ‘affordable’ category.

While Lichfields supports increased affordable housing delivery we believe the level of private sector ‘market-priced’ homes at 3,900 homes is way below the delivery levels the country needs.

The lowest level of private homes delivered in the last 46 years was 4,489, and the highest over 10,000.

The overall housing need assessment suggested by Future Wales is way below any historic levels delivered since 1974.

The Future Wales central estimates for housing, with a ‘policy on’ adjustment for affordable housing delivery but no similar judgements for market delivery, is in our view misleading and gives a false and unrealistic expectation of affordable housing percentages.

"Future Wales signals a significant policy shift toward direct delivery of housing, regeneration and other essential infrastructure by the public sector"

While the intention of the Welsh Government is that there will be increased direct delivery of affordable housing, our view is that this would be further boosted if there were a similar increase in market delivery allied to viable affordable housing policies in development plans.

Future Wales signals a significant policy shift toward direct delivery of housing, regeneration and other essential infrastructure by the public sector. 

It lays the blame for under delivery of affordable housing at the hands of the private sector. 

The delivery shift it proposes is not only highly ambitious, but fails to acknowledge the deliverability challenges faced by the private sector throughout much of Wales. 

Future Wales should look to embrace a strong private sector, albeit with increased public sector partnerships where required, to enable delivery.  

‘Future Wales – The National Development Framework (NDF)’ was laid before the Senedd for a 60 day ‘consideration period’ on September 21, 2020. 

The intention is that it will be published in its final version in February 2021. 

It will form the basis for developments over the next 20 years, sitting atop of the development plan hierarchy and helping to shape the emerging, regional strategic development plans and local development plans  

In our research paper Future Wales - Looking Forwards or Backwards? We conclude: “If Future Wales’ desired economic and social outcomes are to be achieved then significant ‘policy on’ adjustments will be required to trend-based population projections particularly focused at maintaining and increasing the working age population.”

Ensuring the country is able to deliver an appropriate level of private sector housing is a key facet in achieving this.

Gareth Williams is a senior director with Lichfields in Cardiff

Photo | iStock

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