The UK Housing Review - Framing the supply challenge in Wales
Matt Kennedy, policy and public affairs manager at CIH Cymru, reflects on the review’s highlights on housing supply in Wales and notes that apart from the provision of funding and business infrastructure, there's need to tackle social and cultural factors that impact the delivery of more social housing.
The UK Housing Review shed a timely light on the nature of our social housing supply problem in Wales. Yes the problem is that we don’t have enough, but more than that we’re running a real risk of coming off the boil when it comes to supply. Not due to the enthusiasm to commit, but a variety of factors impacting how well orgasniations are able to carry the risk of delivering development, the picture for local authority building and longer-term certainty over funding are all playing a part.
In relation to Wales the review frames the challenge:
Can output now be raised to the levels required? Local authorities are forecasting the completion of 3,100 units in 2018/19: if this is achieved, when added to the previous year’s output it will still leave around 6,000 to be delivered over the remaining two years. With the raising of the budget for social housing grant this looks achievable if there is a step change in output this year.
A number of considerations need to be taken about how enabling the environment will be for social housing providers over the next couple of years. Firstly the review of affordable housing supply in Wales is due to report in early May. This will undoubtedly “shake-up” the mechanics of how we deliver more social housing going forward. The uncertainty of the rent regime will hopefully be replaced by a longer term understanding on rents so that organisations can plan appropriately whilst being more certain over revenue income to allow for further investment to be leveraged.
With local authorities really coming to the fore in directly delivering homes having raised their output to 266 homes in 2017/18 there’s a real momentum within that element of the target to realise its commitment to delivery.
Commitment by the sector is as strong as ever, the UKHR reveals that net housing capital investment by LAs and HAs in Wales, in cash terms, is at its 2nd highest ever and is still above £400m for the first time (£412m). Including private finance, it has reached a record £654m.Against the backdrop of Brexit and potential loss of investment from sources such as the European Investment bank, this strength, particularly in gaining private investment into the sector for social housing can only be a good thing.
The UKHR highlights in great details the picture around supply, it’s important we colour that detail with other factors that we know make a difference when it comes to delivering more homes. These aren’t limited to but include the impact of welfare reform, access to skills and materials and the barriers found in the planning system.
At a societal level we found through our Perceptions of Housing research conducted via our Tyfu Tai Cymru project that stigma towards social housing is still alive and well. With almost half of homeowners for example opposing seeing more social housing built near them. We believe that whilst the funding and business infrastructure has to be kept healthy there is also a compelling argument for tackling the social and cultural factors that have made opposing social housing in this way a norm for some.