Reviewing the review
CIH Cymru policy and public affairs manager Matt Kennedy assesses the scale of the task faced by the Welsh Government's review of affordable housing supply.
It’s a decade since the Essex review which marked a considerable shift and has acted as a key driving force in terms of how the Welsh Government shapes its affordable housing policy. With the announcement of a new review into affordable housing supply in Wales, headed up by Lynn Pamment, senior partner at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, we once again find ourselves at a policy junction.
The Essex review paved the way for better standards, stronger governance and a sharper approach to finance. But it was conducted when the world and our view of it looked considerably different. It sought to understand how we could better link with the EU, access funding, and accelerate innovation in ways that would see us improve housing delivery in line with our European counterparts.
It largely goes without saying that that reality is not what the present review will be grappling with. Rather we have a sum of supply and demand that would be a head-scratcher for even the most capable of Good Will Hunting-esque janitors - balancing factors including government grant, private finance, changes in EU investment, housing demand, public expectations, influence from Westminster and housing organisations' delivery capacity in a complex equation.
The review is asking all the right questions to address the above – focusing on a number of areas including use of public sector land, measuring housing demand and capacity of housing associations. We know that there are already great things becoming the mainstream in practice around off-site construction, modular building and use of neglected land. The review will need to address how innovations in all of these areas become commonplace quickly and how the sector becomes better placed to embrace innovation in a consistent way across Wales.
Ultimately the sector is being asked how it will deliver better homes, that are more sustainable, with limited (if any) carbon footprint, can change in line with people’s needs, use the cutting edge in building materials and methods. . . if less money became available to deliver homes. Oh, and on top of that, we need to deliver substantially more homes in the years to come, accelerating delivery.
What the review misses, no doubt largely a result of the tight timescale it is working to, is the opportunity to bring an enthusiastic focus across government about the impact affordable homes have on other vital areas, from transport to massive economic infrastructure projects to the NHS and education. CIH Cymru called for the review to have representatives from a broad range of areas akin to those previously mentioned and despite the review being more financially focused (understandably) we’ll be making sure that through our evidence the cross-departmental impact of affordable housing isn’t lost.
The review provides no easy problems to consider but the sector is brimming with ideas. We’ve been collecting your views through our member insight survey, focusing on the challenges raised by the review, and it’s not too late to have your say - simply complete this short online survey.
We’re looking forward to continuing to discuss the review with members and promote how members can have their say, ensuring representatives on these groups have the latest insight from the sector to have the greatest impact on the outcome of the review in the longer term.