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Written Statement - Meeting the Housing Challenge - Building a Consensus for Action

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Huw Lewis, Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage

Housing is a high priority for this Government and I am pleased to announce today that I am publishing an important paper ‘Meeting the Housing Challenge – Building a Consensus for Action’. 

The paper sets out my thoughts on vision and priorities in light of the significant challenges that face us. Differences in opinion exist but there’s also much common ground and I want to try and build a consensus on the legislative and other action that needs to be taken. I hope it will stimulate even more dialogue across political parties, with organisations, and with the public more generally. 

A decent home is a vital part of everyone’s life. It affects everything including health and well being, our children's education, the ability to hold down a job, and the strength of our communities. Investment in housing is an economic driver and house builders are a major source of employment and skills in the construction sector.

The Welsh Government understands the importance of housing and is committed to ensuring everyone has access to a decent home. But there are some big challenges facing us and they are not going to be easy to solve: 

  • There are not enough homes to go around because our population is increasing, people are living longer, and more people are choosing to live alone;
  • Many homes are in need of improvement, particularly those rented from private landlords and some of the older houses that people own;
  • Ensuring people get the services they need to find and keep their home, particularly those in very difficult personal circumstances or crisis situations at home;
  • The impact that the rising cost of living and benefits changes are having on some people are cause for concern;
  • Public money is in short supply, which means we have to make difficult decision about how to spend it

We are determined to make a difference and I am looking at things we can do, including new laws and other action, but it is not down to the Government alone. Meeting people's housing needs depends on the joint efforts of the Welsh Government, local authorities, housing associations, banks and building societies, industry representatives, charities and voluntary organisations.

The good news is that there are already plenty of ideas and possibilities. For example, tightening up on bad landlords, finding better ways to tackle homelessness, bringing empty properties back into use, and using Government land for more homes, to name but a few.  And the work of others, such as the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into affordable housing will make important contributions to future action.

More dialogue will help us all consider the big questions that need to be answered. For example, what are the priorities? Where should efforts be focused? What needs to be done? 

The dialogue that takes place as a result of the paper and views received will inform the Housing Bill and other action, the proposals for which I will publish next spring.  

A copy of my paper accompanies this statement. Copies are also available on the Welsh Government’s website:  http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/housingcommunity/housingchallenge/?skip=1&lang=en  

I’m asking for views by Friday 17 February 2012 and the paper explains how these can be submitted.