Providing More Affordable Homes Needs to be a Priority

As in many other areas, the number of new affordable homes being supplied in Swansea is a long way short of the number of new affordable homes that are needed. To have any chance of closing this gap the first step is to ensure that affordable housing is a shared priority for the Council and its partners. This is one of the main messages coming out of the recently completed Scrutiny Inquiry into Affordable Housing in Swansea.

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The report of the Scrutiny Inquiry Panel – Building the Right Foundations – provides a number of recommendations about how the Council and its partners can take steps to increase the overall supply of affordable housing in the City & County of Swansea.

The Convener of the Panel, Councillor Terry Hennegan says this in his foreword to the report:

As a Panel we believe that affordable housing matters. Everyone should have access to a good quality home that meets their needs and everyone should have a home that they can afford to live in. This is the Council’s aspiration and it is the reason we undertook this inquiry.

The report highlights the importance, scale and complexity of the affordable housing challenge. While about 500 new affordable homes are needed every year in Swansea, only about a quarter of this number is actually being provided. At the same time it has never been so difficult to make affordable homes available to those that need them. Reductions in public funding coupled with the difficult market conditions of recent years mean that we can no longer rely on the traditional ways of getting things done.

The report is called ‘Building the Right Foundations’ to reflect the fact that the challenge of affordable housing is a system problem that will not be solved by any single scheme alone. It concludes that while the Council makes good use of the grant money it receives to build new affordable homes, it will need to develop a more strategic role in future.  A key part of this role will be to lead partnerships with the social housing sector, the private sector and with communities if a sufficient number of affordable homes are to be provided.

In developing its conclusions and recommendations the Panel heard evidence from council officers, housing associations, private homebuilders and voluntary groups such as Shelter Cymru. The Welsh Government also provided written evidence.

The report, which will shortly be presented to the Council’s Cabinet, proposes that the Council:

  • Makes affordable housing a top priority within its overarching plans
  • Publishes a ‘Commitment to Affordable Housing’
  • Sets up a strategic partnership forum for affordable housing
  • Sets up a partnership task group to consider how more publicly owned land can be used to subsidise new affordable homes
  • Ensures that new affordable homes remain available as affordable homes over the long term
  • Undertakes a review of the support service that the Council provides in respect of new developments

You can download a copy of the full report in our Scrutiny Reports Library.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesmontsdore/5726143245

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