The Welsh Government released their Housing White Paper yesterday for consultation. Below are the main points to note from the Paper.
The White Paper represents a change in focus from the previous administration and its aims and objectives for housing delivery. The Paper emphasises the need for the Welsh Government to be the ‘custodian’ of the housing agenda and to promote an increase in the delivery of all housing tenures.
The paper emphasises the need to increase the supply of homes in general, and commits the Welsh Government into considering innovative ways to increase the future supply of homes in Wales. The paper recognises that in order to build more homes, national and local governments must create the right conditions in order to facilitate delivery.
In this respect the Paper highlights the need to release more land for housing development, particularly public sector land, and also emphasises the need for public sector land not to be sold at open market values. The document also discusses the need to strengthen the duties on local authorities with respect to their strategic role and function. This means local authorities must make a concerted effort to fully understand the housing problems they face and to identify the measures needed to tackle these issues. The Paper reinforces the need for local authorities to strengthen their evidence on housing needs and requirements, and also to set the right conditions to ensure housing supply keeps pace with housing demand. In order to assist this process, the requirement to undertake a Local
Housing Market Assessment will be enshrined in legislation, as will the need to keep the assessment up-to-date and relevant to current and future requirements.
The Paper also discusses the need for local authorities to tackle negative attitudes to house building and proposes the creation of Housing Champions. The idea is for a senior Cabinet Member to take charge of house building, rather than the usual ‘housing brief’. The role of this Housing Champion will be to promote house building and keep their colleagues focussed on the wider issues when considering individual development proposals.
In terms of specific housing targets, the White Paper sets out proposals to deliver 7,500 new affordable homes, of which 500 will be co-operative homes and 500 will be built on surplus public sector sites. The White Paper also sets out a requirement to bring 5,000 empty properties back into use, through the Houses to Homes Scheme.
Whilst we are disappointed by the lack of a private sector housing target, we welcome the greater emphasis within the White Paper on the need to deliver more homes in the private market, and the importance attached to setting the right conditions to facilitate housing delivery. We are therefore confident that an opportunity exists to bolster the Welsh Government’s commitment in this regard, in the interim collaboration period whilst the Paper is being taken through to legislation.
The Role of Planning
The White Paper discusses, in some depth, the role of planning and its links to house building. The document recognises the barriers that planning and other regulatory systems can create to thwart the delivery of private market housing, and recommends that more work should be done to ensure these barriers are lifted. The document also recognises the problems inherent with the inconsistent approach taken by local authorities across Wales when attempting to negotiate Section 106 agreements. The paper therefore proposes fresh guidance for local authorities to understand what they can deliver and what their limitations are.
The document also recognises the importance of creating a robust and up-to-date local development planning system and reinforces the need for local authorities to adopt LDPs at the earliest possible opportunity.
All in all, the White Paper makes some important points about the Planning system and its potential impact on housing delivery, and recognises the inseparable link that exists between the two Welsh Government departments. This is a welcome change from previous national guidance on Housing in Wales.
Help for First Time Buyers
The White Paper contains welcome proposals for a Welsh Mortgage Guarantee Scheme. In terms of the detail of the scheme, in a pre-launch meeting the Housing Minister indicated that the proposed scheme would not mirror the NewBuy Scheme exactly, as it will require different parameters in order for it to operate effectively in Wales. However, the Minister stated he could not provide any more detail on how the scheme would work in practice, chiefly because he is waiting for the Finance Minister to make an announcement (Tuesday 22nd May), on the likely availability of funding for it.
The HBF has been working closely with Welsh Government Officials on the potential introduction of NewBuy in Wales, and thus far, officials have been extremely positive on the NewBuy model and the potential benefits of utilising the HBF insurance captive vehicle. Therefore, we are hopeful that the Welsh Government scheme will not be too dissimilar to the NewBuy scheme, as we feel this would be the best and most practical way to ensure any scheme that is introduced is a viable and workable.
We will provide more information on the detail of the proposed Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, following the Finance Minister’s announcement tomorrow.
The White Paper reinforces the commitment to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and also to ensuring a high standard in newly built homes. Links with the Planning Department and the proposed changes to building regulations in Wales will be important in this regard, to ensure that any new proposals are viable and deliverable.
Innovative Tenure Approaches
The White Paper promotes the use of Cooperative Housing Models as a method of delivery and states that 500 of the newly announced affordable homes will be delivered through cooperative models.
The White Paper also promotes the use of Community Land Trusts and announces the intention for the Welsh Government to set out the definition of a Community Land Trust national legislation.
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