Unlocking the door to more social homes in Wales

Housing House keys
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.
ViewsMarch 26th, 2024

More social homes are needed now more than ever, but delivery is way off targetthe Bevan Foundation’s new research aims to find some of the solutions. Wendy Dearden, our Senior Policy and Research Officer, tells us more

When Aneurin Bevan was made a UK minister in 1945, he envisaged the social housing sector as a housing service similar to the National Health Service, ensuring that everyone had access to decent and affordable homes. Nearly 80 years on, it feels like we’re moving ever further away from that being a reality. 

The housing crisis shows no sign of lessening its impact on people across Wales. 

Our Snapshot surveys have shown that a consistently high proportion of the Welsh population feel the threat of becoming homeless. In our most recent survey, 14 per cent of people reported that they were worried about being evicted or having their home repossessed in the three months from January 2024.  

Our housing system is banking up in hotel rooms across the country. 

11,273 individuals were living in temporary accommodation at the end of 2023, over a quarter of which were dependent children. These numbers have risen consistently since the start of the pandemic with more than double the number of people living in temporary accommodation now than in December 2020.   

Temporary accommodation is used by local authorities to fulfil their homelessness duties.  At its worst, it could be one hotel room for a whole family and sharing facilities with others. For some, this will be the place they call home not just for a few months, but for years. 

Historically, a key to a social home would have been the easy answer, but we just don’t have enough for the record 139,000 people on social housing waiting lists.  

Local authorities have been using the private rented sector as an alternative but with high demand there too, and rocketing rent levels, it has increasingly become an unaffordable option.

Welsh Government recognise the need for more social homes, but the reality of delivery is way behind their ambitions.

Progress is slow towards the target of 20,000 additional homes in the social rented sector (2021 – 2026). We’re nearly halfway through and Welsh Government figures report that only 5,775 properties (29%) have been delivered. It’s important to remember that this figure includes intermediate rentals and shared ownership. We estimate that 4,780 of the homes delivered are let at a social rent. 

Meanwhile, Vaughan Gething has restated the commitment to enable more development by social landlords, but there is little detail on how the blockages such as the cost and availability of land will be overcome.

Unlocking the supply of affordable land is key to increasing the supply of homes at a fair and affordable rent.  

Thanks to funding support from the Nationwide Foundation, this is something we’ll be looking at over the next few months, working closely with Housing Justice Cymru and Cwmpas. We want to understand why land supply is a significant barrier to development and show the potential of land held by different types of social and public owners. 

Housing Justice Cymru have been identifying land in faith organisation ownership that is suitable for development for these purposes and brokering arrangements with registered social landlords and community groups to develop it. We’re now going to broaden that out and look at what other land is out there. Perhaps a community centre, working men’s club or a Brownies unit have land that they don’t use? There may be benefits for both as well as the opportunity for development. We must also not forget the environmental benefits of utilising brownfield land likely to be close to the centre of existing communities.  

We’re also going to open the lid on protocols for the disposal of publicly-owned land, be that Welsh Government itself, councils and health boards, and explore if a more strategic approach could identify where land ownership, development potential and housing need coincide, and to plan for its development.  

Our aim is to make recommendations on the actions required to release land, shift public policy, legislation funding and practice.  

We’re hoping to inform our work through conversations with people involved in housing development either as a social landlord, local authority planner, or other professional. If you’re interested in supporting this work then please get in touch.

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