Joining him at the homelessness seminar at Cardiff University were Professor Dennis Culhane, who has advised the United States Government on homelessness, and Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick who has worked with the Scottish Government on the issue.
Their ideas and policies can help inform the proposals for dealing with homelessness in the Welsh Government’s White Paper on housing, which will be published this year.
Huw Lewis said,
“Helping vulnerable people and providing support to those whose housing needs cannot be met through the market is particularly important to me,” he said.
“We face huge challenges in the coming years - challenges on a scale we haven’t seen before. But in no way does that reduce my resolve to do all I possibly can for people who need our help. If anything, it strengthens it.”
Mr Lewis told the audience that the Welsh Government’s Ten Year Homelessness Plan is based on several principles. They are prevention, better partnership working to meet people’s needs, fair access to services, and making use of all the resources available to us, including the private sector.
To support this plan Mr Lewis explained he would be publishing proposals for legislation and other action on housing in the housing White Paper, based on new research and evaluation.
“Homelessness and improving the private rented sector will feature in the Housing Bill and other subjects are being considered too.” he said.
“The Bill is a huge opportunity and I want to take full advantage of it. But legislation is by no means the only answer and therefore my White Paper will include other action to tackle identified problems.
“Last year, I commissioned a fundamental review of homelessness legislation to help us identify the changes we need in the Housing Bill.
“Some key messages are already emerging. For example homelessness prevention is crucial but current legislation does not effectively support prevention activity. We must do everything we can to support local authorities and third sector organisations in strengthening their ability to help people to avoid becoming homeless.”
Mr Lewis said the Welsh Government would listen carefully to views from all sectors before bringing legislation forward.
“As a Government, we will do all we can. We are already supporting action to help people to manage the changes to Housing Benefit. We are providing £1.4 million to local authorities and Shelter Cymru to mitigate the effect of these cuts,” he added
“We also need to find new ways to increase the supply of housing. I’m looking for a much faster pace on the use of publicly-owned land for affordable housing and on the development of new models including, very importantly, cooperatives.
“We as a Government – and I am determined as a Minister – aim to provide as much protection and support to help people through this difficult period and to prevent homelessness in the first place.”