Written - Mortgage Rescue Scheme
The Mortgage Rescue scheme was introduced by the Welsh Assembly Government as an emergency measure during the economic downturn. £14.1 million has been spent on the scheme to date and it has been successful in helping to prevent 336 households of 680 adults and 351 children from becoming homeless, assisting families in every Local Authority area.
In January this year I told the National Assembly that while I could not continue to prioritise funding towards the Mortgage Rescue scheme indefinitely, £12 million had been made available for the scheme this financial year.
Demand for the Mortgage Rescue Scheme has been very high resulting in the current £12 million budget being almost fully committed. I have therefore reviewed the Social Housing Grant Programme for this financial year to see what can be done to address this demand. I am subsequently transferring £2 million funding from the Extracare programme budget to support the Mortgage Rescue scheme in 2010-2011. I recognise that this is likely to slow down the Extracare programme in Wales but it is essential that we are flexible in how we utilise the finite resources we have available to support the social housing agenda in Wales.
The additional £2 million will be used to support Mortgage Rescue scheme applications that have been received by the Housing Directorate and are awaiting approval. It will also enable future applications to be processed. Given the limited resources that are available and potential demand we need to ensure that the scheme is targeted at the most vulnerable people and makes the most effective use of public funds. I have therefore considered it necessary to add new eligibility criteria and I intend targeting the Mortgage Rescue scheme to those applicants who are disabled and whose homes have been adapted to meet their needs.
I know that housing associations across Wales are currently considering applications that will not meet the revised criteria. I hope that associations will look at ways to continue to support as many of these applications as possible but I recognise that their ability to do so may be limited.
The Mortgage Rescue scheme in
Tackling Homelessness remains a priority for this Government and we have a clear vision for action to minimise homelessness in Wales, with the Mortgage Rescue scheme being just one of the tools that can be used to tackle the problem. Our Housing Strategy, Ten Year Homelessness Plan and the Financial Inclusion Strategy set the policy framework for supporting people who are struggling with housing-related debts, and we are funding a range of advice services including the Housing Debt helpline to help people avoid becoming homeless in the first place.
I realise there is much more to do and we will continue to push forward within the constraints of the current financial environment and will continue to keep Members abreast of developments in this area.