Draft budget announced - what's the impact for Welsh housing?
Matt Kennedy, CIH Cymru's policy and practice manager, runs the rule over the recently announced budget, looking at the impact for Welsh housing.
Amidst much political drama in the run-up to its announcement the Welsh Government budget was released today. The main story was a reasonably positive nod to the housing sector, with £389m allocated in reserves to support the delivery of the 20k affordable homes target. In a positive outcome for an area where many (including me) may have feared cuts would be made, the supporting people programme received protection at the same levels as 2016/17 for 2017/18. In addition other key programmes including flying start, families first and the homelessness prevention fund received protection. However a decrease in funding for community regeneration is a considerable blotch upon an otherwise positive budget.
What is refreshing however is the broad nature with which it considered the role of the housing sector, and the impact good homes have on wellbeing outcomes within Welsh communities. One of CIH Cymru’s main calls ahead of the Welsh Assembly election was to highlight that housing must be recognised as a key infrastructure programme, similar to that of communications or transport. So it’s positive to see this budget recognise that, whilst also highlighting the local impact of housing on increasing individual prosperity.
The budget, in its rationale also rightly recognises the severe, life-threatening impact of cold homes. It highlights some research conducted by CIH looking at the resource implications of this problem:
“Data gathered by Chartered Institute of Housing shows that every £1.00 spent on energy efficiency saves around 0.42p in health costs, so £1 million invested saves around £400,000 over 10 years. The data also indicates every £1.00 spent improving homes where residents are likely to require treatment due to excess cold saves the NHS £34.19 over 10 years. In other words, £1 million saves £34 million over 10 years.”
Over and above that, even putting those impressive figures to one side, the headline is that high quality housing that’s affordable to heat and maintain saves lives. Moreover, this week Shelter released some stand-out research into a “Living Home Standard”. This research re-emphasised the need to ensure the mechanics of delivering homes goes hand in hand with what makes a home… a home.
What is clear is that there’s more to come out in the wash. Whilst the 20k target is one to be welcomed, further discussions and plans will be required to ensure those are the right kind of homes, built in the right places, with strong community infrastructure.
In the context of Brexit, the loss of access to EU structural funds, potential pressure on supporting people in years to come, the unknowns around a new-look tackling poverty scheme and a reduction in the funds allocated to regeneration in this budget – despite the positive outcomes in some areas, there is still much work to do in connecting the dots between delivering high quality tackling poverty interventions and the resources required to back this up in practice. Building the right homes must marry with having the infrastructure in place to increase and sustain community prosperity for all ages, groups and backgrounds.