The Minister made the keynote speech to the conference at the Marriot Hotel in Swansea in which he highlighted how the Housing White Paper published last month sets out the Welsh Government’s plans for legislative and non-legislative action to tackle homelessness and other issues within the housing sector.
"Despite the tremendous work in recent years to prevent people becoming homeless, numbers have now started to rise again, as a result of the recession and the impact of welfare benefit reforms.
"In the past our options have been limited but with our new powers, that has changed. Now, we can and will do more.
"Our proposals on homelessness have been developed following a major research and consultation project involving stakeholders across all sectors, and considering evidence of experiences in other countries as well as our existing legislation. I am confident that we are forming a set of measures with broad support that will have a real impact on homelessness in Wales.
"At the heart of the proposals is the determination to place prevention at the centre of local authority homelessness duties. I want the legislation to focus services on preventing homelessness through finding solutions to people’s housing problems at the earliest possible stage"
The Minister also spoke about the need to work together to tackle homelessness saying:
"I must emphasise that although the primary duty will be on the local authority to take reasonable steps to find housing solutions, we will also expect other sectors to support this approach, including the voluntary sector.
"The private rented sector is an essential resource in offering options for many people who would otherwise be homeless. Our proposal to allow discharge of the main homelessness duty into good quality private rented sector accommodation reflects this reality, and will be supported by other proposals contained in the White Paper for improving standards and management in the private rented sector.
"We need to support each other within the sector to improve and adapt to the changing welfare benefit environment, and work with social lettings agencies to help people find suitable accommodation wherever possible.
The Housing White Paper, which will lead to the Housing Bill in 2013, aims to create a future where:
- Everyone has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs
- Homelessness does not exist
- Homes are in good condition and meet appropriate standards
- Renting is seen as an equally good option to buying
- New models like co-operative housing are a more significant element of the housing system
- People are helped to live independently and support is available for those who need it
- Housing organisations play a greater role both within communities and in delivering public services, and
- There is better co-operation and integration between organisations.
Consultation on the document is open until August 17th.
The Minister finished by outlining his hopes for the future. He added:
"I want the final Bill to put housing very clearly in the context of our wider vision of a fair and just society and that means better systems to prevent homelessness and support citizens out of poverty.
"Everyone deserves to live in a good quality, energy efficient home which is affordable. With the input of your expertise, skills and energy, we can move closer to making this a reality."