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30 November 2020

Housing and 2021 Senedd Elections

Housing and 2021 Senedd Elections
Ahead of the third and final day of CHC’s Annual Conference, we heard from Wales’ political leaders on manifesto pledges ahead of the 2021 Senedd Elections, reflections on the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic, and the meaning of home.


There was a great deal of consensus over the course of the panel discussion, expertly chaired by BBC Broadcaster and Presenter Sian Lloyd, with all three party leaders acknowledging the achievements as well as the challenges faced so far in 2020. They all also spoke of how ‘home’ has become so much more than a place to live, and the difference that safe, secure, and affordable housing can make.


However, there were marked differences in tone and approaches in the leaders’ responses. Julie James MS, Minister for Housing and Local Government, consistently referred to a shared vision and goals, and in coming together to do the right thing. Paul Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, emphasised the need to carry on the momentum of collaboration and for policies to reflect this learning. Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru, spoke of decisive action on the part of the next Welsh Government, limiting reliance on the private sector to meet housing need.


Homelessness


Julie James expressed her pride in all that the housing sector had achieved this year, pointing to the rapid rehousing of those experiencing homelessness. The shared vision, she told delegates, was to ‘do the right thing for the person in front of you’. The Minister was clear that she does not intend to forget all that has been learnt: ‘there is no going back’.


Paul Davies MS referred to the Welsh Conservatives’ 10 point plan to tackle homelessness in Wales, in which the party commits to eradicate rough sleeping by 2026, construct 40,000 new social homes over 10 years, introduce homelessness awareness classes into schools and appoint a homelessness Tsar.


Adam Price called for speed and urgency, sharing Plaid Cymru’s promise to abolish rough sleeping within two years and the ambition to deliver 50,000 affordable homes over five years. He spoke in favour of a national housing and land agency to deliver affordable housing at scale.


Public services & partnership


Paul Davies MS emphasised that the pandemic has shown what can really be achieved. If effective collaboration can happen in the midst of a crisis, he asked, why wouldn’t it be able to continue as we move to recovery? He called for realistic, honest conversations with public services, and the need for certainty and confidence.


Julie James advocated listening to lived experience to establish the root causes of issues, and of the use of secondments to understand why a policy might not be translating in practice.


Adam Price described Wales as reaching a reset moment, an opportunity to turn words into action. He stressed the need to build capacity in national government, to allow for connections and alignments between policy areas.


Housing, health & social care


While there was consensus among the panel about the increasingly evident relationship between housing, health, and social care, Adam Price went a step further in advocating for investment in housing as part of health strategies. Given that appropriate housing hasn’t yet been delivered by the private sector, he said, the public sector needs to drive it themselves.


Paul Davies, on the other hand, called for strong leadership at both national and local levels to drive collaboration and push housing up the political agenda, while Julie James described integration based around shared goals.


Home


As Stuart Ropke recently wrote, we believe that the route to a better nation for all of us starts at home. This is at the core of the CHC 2021 Senedd Election Manifesto Home - Creating a Better Wales for All.


Today’s event struck an optimistic note that political parties in Wales recognise and agree that by prioritising homes in the next Programme for Government we can collectively make progress against the significant challenges Wales faces.