23 Dec 2022
This past year has been marked by political instability with three prime ministers in a year. We also have a war in Europe impacting energy prices and the biggest cost of living crisis we have seen for a generation. These factors are having an impact on how housing professionals build new homes and deliver vital services to communities. There are also signs as we look ahead to 2023, that changes to housing policy and legislation in Wales will continue at pace.
Cost of living crisis
At the time of writing inflation in the UK was 10.7 per cent. Mortgage interest rates were at their highest since 2008 and the cost of energy was continuing to increase. To help our members navigate the crisis we have published a monthly series of briefings and webinars on the cost of living crisis. These briefings outlined the latest research and information on how the crisis is affecting tenants, with dedicating issues providing a spotlight of the impact on families, people with disabilities, domestic abuse survivors and victims.
A budget made in hard times, for hard times
Welsh Governments draft budget for 2023/24 published on 13 December was made against the backdrop of significant financial constraint. Due to inflationary pressures the settlement from UK Government set in Autumn 2021 for the following three financial years up to 2024/25 is in real terms worth £1 billion less in 2023/24.
Despite the increasingly difficult financial landscape, there were funding additions for individuals who are significantly impacted by the cost of living crisis through an increase to the Discretionary Assistance Fund.
Welsh Government committed to keep the record levels of investment in Social Housing Grant as part of their ambition to build 20,000 new low-carbon homes at social rent in the current Senedd term.
The Welsh Government also sustained the levels of investment for decarbonisation of current stock and funding for building safety. Yet, as outlined in the Future Generations Commissioners Report Homes fit for the future: The retrofit challenge the level of committed investment needed for decarbonisation is £170 million per annum. Welsh Government have committed £184 million over two years almost half the needed investment.
A rights-based approach to housing
The commitment made in the Welsh Labour – Plaid Cymru Co-operation Agreement to introduce a white paper on incorporating the right to adequate housing into Welsh law has now seen its one-year anniversary.
We completed the second phase of our research commissioned through our back the bill coalition alongside Tai Pawb and Shelter Cymru. This saw Alma Economics produce a report that set out investing £5 billion in ending homelessness and improving housing adequacy can generate £11.5 billion in economic and social benefits over a 30-year period. In other words, spending £1 to provide adequate housing in Wales will generate £2.30 in benefits to beneficiaries and society.
There is ongoing cross-party support for a rights-based approach to housing, we need to ensure we do not lose any of the momentum to ensure we can revolutionise how we address homelessness, tackle housing quality, and build the level and type of homes we need in Wales for decades to come.
Decarbonising the private rented sector
A research project undertaken by Tyfu Tai Cymru in partnership with Sustainable Collective, Severn Wye, Energy Agency and Sero, produced a report that examined the technical and behavioural solutions needed to meet the targets for the decarbonisation and fuel poverty reduction of the Private Rented Sector’s (PRS) in Wales. The research highlighted a funding gap of £864m to support the Private Rented Sector in reaching net-zero by 2050. The report called on the Welsh Government to develop a long-term strategy for energy efficiency, fuel poverty and decarbonisation of the private rented sector (PRS) which integrates with broader objectives surrounding housing quality, fire safety and landlord licensing.
Giving evidence on homelessness and temporary accommodation
We provided written evidence and in person evidence to the Local Government and Housing Committee on homelessness and temporary accommodation in Wales. Some of the highlighted issues were:
Supporting professionals to thrive
This year Tyfu Tai published their third report, Joining the dots, looking at the experience of frontline housing professionals. This research highlighted that many housing professionals are motivated by helping people and communities. Yet frontline housing professionals are under significant pressure. The report outlined worsening well-being and concerns that house building targets will not be met. There is also increasing anxiety around the cost of living crisis and the impact this could have on already increasing demand for services. We will be building on this research in 2023 so we can share good practice around supporting our housing professional’s mental well-being.
Cerys is the policy and public affairs manager for CIH Cymru.