The sunshine this week makes it hard to believe that just a little over a month ago much of the country was covered in a blanket of snow. Over the winter, festive spirit and the cold weather mean homelessness and housing issues are often at the forefront of the public and government’s thoughts; anyone with an ounce of compassion can’t help but sympathise with those forced to sleep outside in biting temperatures. However, as the temperature rises it is important that these issues aren’t forgotten about again until next winter.
One factor that might keep housing issues at the forefront is the appointment of a new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, a change in Westminster that was triggered by the resignation of Amber Rudd. James Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, has taken over from Sajid Javid (who has been promoted to Home Secretary). Although housing is devolved, meaning Brokenshire’s housing brief will be restricted to England, he takes over at a time when housing is top of the political agenda across the whole of the UK. His influence and relationship with the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey, at the Cabinet will be vital and undoubtedly have significant impact in Wales at a time when Universal Credit continues to role out. Wales has carved out a very distinct policy direction on housing under devolution, and it will be interesting to see how Brokenshire’s approach may vary from his predecessors and if there are any lessons to learn from Wales.
Back home in Wales, the Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (Wales) Bill passed its final stage within the assembly and is now in the waiting period before it can be sent for Royal Assent. This is good news for the social housing sector and was well received by housing spokespeople for all the major parties. This bill will bring RSLs back into the private sector, meaning that they have more freedom to borrow money, a necessity to allow them to build and improve the housing across Wales, which is essential if they are to meet the target of 75,000 homes by 2036.
Georgina Shackell Green, Public Affairs Assistant