The main political parties in Wales have outlined radically different proposals for social housing in their manifestos, published this week ahead of National Assembly for Wales election next month.
The election will mark the introduction of new powers which will allow the Welsh Assembly Government to legislate over all housing matters for the first time.
Welsh Labour’s manifesto pledges to improve existing homes and promises further investment to deliver the Welsh housing quality standard. The party, currently the majority force in the Welsh Assembly with 26 seats, also pledges to support tenant participation services and to invest in homeless services and combat fuel poverty.
Plaid Cymru, which holds 15 seats, sets out investment in new housing as one of its main aims. Its manifesto states it would build 6,500 affordable homes under a scheme it is calling ‘Build4Wales’. It says it would make a ‘rent now, pay later’ scheme the centrepiece of attempts to help more people into homeownership and pledges to improve rural housing options.
The Welsh Conservative Party was due to launch its manifesto today. Inside Housing understands it will contain plans to create 10,000 new affordable homes by 2015 - more than the other parties - and to protect the right to buy.
The party’s manifesto is also understood to introduce plans for a single form of tenure for all social housing tenants. It will focus on encouraging stock transfer as a means to improve the quality of social housing. The Conservatives hold 12 seats currently.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats’ manifesto champions a country-wide programme to reduce the number of empty homes and plans to allow councils to raise council tax for owners who allow empty properties to fall into disrepair. The party, seeking to increase its presence in the assembly beyond its current six members, would resurrect the Welsh Housing Investment Trust, scrapped in December.
The party differs from the Welsh Conservatives over right to buy and would stop any new social rented housing from being sold under the scheme for a minimum of 25 years. It promises to enforce local authority minimum levels of affordable housing in any new development.
The Welsh Green Party manifesto focuses on homelessness. It says it will make councils treat single homeless people and childless couples on a par with families. The party would also end the ability of housing providers to declare people ‘intentionally homeless’.
The party, which has no assembly seats, pledges to end the right to buy and give people struggling to pay mortgages the option to sell their home to the council and rent it back.
Keith Edwards, director of CIH Cymru, said he wanted to see housing spearhead regeneration and improvements in health care. ‘Housing can deliver a lot more,’ he added.
Inside Housing’s House Proud - Devolved campaign aims to raise the profile of housing ahead of the elections. In Wales 91,000 households were on housing waiting lists in February 2009, according to Community Housing Cymru, while CIH Cymru says the country needs 101,000 extra social homes.
Welsh Labour Party
Leader: Carwyn Jones
Leader: Ieuan Wyn Jones
Welsh Conservative Party
Leader: Nick Bourne
Welsh Liberal Democrats
Leader: Kirsty Williams