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12 November 2020

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home
At the end of a challenging year, in which the day-to-day demands of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic remain relentlessly acute, and the consequences for many individuals has been devastating, it’s hard to think about tomorrow - let alone the future. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about what really matters, and for those reasons, it has never been more important to keep our eyes on the horizon.


All elections matter, but the forthcoming election for the Welsh Parliament, or Senedd as it is commonly known here in Wales, is arguably the most crucial I can remember. The election offers us the chance to engage in robust debate, take a fresh look at old challenges, raise our ambitions for Wales and map out a shared course to deliver greater prosperity and health for the next generation.


At Community Housing Cymru, we believe that the route to a better nation for all of us starts at home.


The pandemic has laid bare the importance of home and highlighted the inequalities faced by people living in poor quality housing. Where we live has never been more important to how we live. The recent ‘Poverty in Wales’ report by JRF only serves to highlight that many of the challenges Wales has faced for a long period have been exacerbated by the pandemic.


Over a quarter of Wales’ population live in poverty, exacerbated by the lack of good, well-paid jobs in many parts of the country. Add in other existential issues, such as climate change, pressures on public services, and the consequences of globalisation, and we are faced with the need to find solutions to a perfect storm of wicked problems.


In 2017, we laid out our vision of a Wales where good housing is a basic right for all. We have not wavered from our view that good housing, with the right support where it is needed, is crucial for every person and family whatever their circumstances.


As we launch Home, Community Housing Cymru’s manifesto for the 2021 Senedd election,


housing associations in Wales have considered the tools at their disposal to build a better Wales, as well as the actions we need from the next Welsh Government.


To support local economies to become more resilient, housing associations will do even more to invest locally, using procurement processes to support local businesses. To support the work to make existing homes more energy-efficient, they will build and support strong local supply chains - not just of materials but of labour too. Working with education and training providers, Welsh SMEs, and social enterprises, they can help create and support the skilled, secured jobs that communities across the nation are crying out for.


To play their part in mitigating climate change, the housing association sector will also take the concrete steps required to be recognised as a low carbon sector. By scaling environmentally responsible construction and energy generation alongside work to decarbonise the existing housing stock - progress can be made.


To increase the value we deliver for the public purse, at a time when public finances will be under incredible pressure, we will make public money go further by matching every £1 invested in building new social housing. Housing associations have already leveraged public investment to provide £3bn of private investment spent in some of the most deprived communities in Wales - they plan to increase that investment by a further £1bn over the next Senedd term.


To support statutory partners, at a time of rising needs on many fronts, housing associations will continue their work to end evictions from social housing into homelessness by continuing to invest in trauma-informed approaches and strengthening local partnerships. They will ensure that homes owned by housing associations are affordable to live in - publishing local rent policies developed in conjunction with tenants and other partners with affordability and value for money at their heart. The pandemic has also exposed digital inequalities on a grand scale and housing associations are committed to ensuring tenants and communities have access to equipment and digital infrastructure, as well as the confidence and skills to use digital services.


These are just some of housing associations’ commitments in Home, but we know they are only part of the whole. We know that we don’t hold all the answers and that an effective response to this challenge relies on every partner in Wales - communities, third and private sectors, public sector partners, and governments - committing to make this a reality. To make these collective actions count - the next Welsh Government must take concrete action and support others to do the same.


The next Government of Wales will have many hard choices to make but we need a balanced investment programme that will ensure that every pound spent will work hard to provide an economic boost, as well as benefitting the health and wellbeing of the whole nation and future generations.


In particular, a five year £1.5bn social housing grant programme is required to enable 20,000 new energy-efficient social homes to be built, alongside a £4bn stimulus package of public investment working alongside private finance to retrofit social homes to the highest environmental standard by 2030. Alongside that capital investment, a four-year inflation-linked indicative funding settlement for support activities to prevent homelessness through the Housing Support Grant is desperately required if we are to build on social gains already made.


The pandemic has also illustrated the extent to which the existing social care and support system is fraying at the edges. Housing associations have been adept at helping to support people to remain independent in their own homes by providing support services and adapting the home as required. But now, more than ever the social care and support system requires urgent reform. We need the next Welsh Government to prioritise greater investment that is driven by value over cost, to ensure improved outcomes for service users, the workforce, and social value for communities.


These are just some of the ideas that feature in our Home manifesto, but we know that ideas are nothing without practical thought-through plans backed up by the leadership and drive to make them happen. That’s why early next year we will publish an accompanying Action Plan for Government, setting out the detailed actions required to put these ideas into practice. I firmly believe that, if implemented, these ideas can foster a recovery from the trauma of the pandemic that prioritises a decent and affordable home as the starting point for successful lives and places.


CHC’s ‘Home’ manifesto was co-developed with almost 100 organisations, including housing associations and partners from the public, private and third sectors from across Wales. The hashtag #HereForHomes is being used on social media, more information can be found here.