Four of the biggest factors impacting Welsh housing development
With the surging demand for all types of affordable accommodation surpassing the number of available homes - it is clear that Wales is facing a crisis point.
According to statistics from Shelter Cymru, there are currently 90,000 households on the waiting list for a social home in Wales, with 10,444 individuals in temporary accommodation - 3,500 of whom are children.
This gap between the need for more housing and the lack of available homes, has left many people concerned about their long-term housing security.
Despite this, Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) are making a significant contribution to additional affordable housing in Wales. In 2021/22 they provided 80% of all additional affordable housing across Wales, according to Welsh Government figures.
So what are the main factors impacting housing in Wales?
Here our head of policy and external affairs Elly Lock discusses her thoughts on the biggest issues affecting Welsh housing development …
Inflation has seen the cost of building materials soar, making it more expensive to build, and more difficult for contractors to operate.
This in turn makes it more difficult to find contractors who are willing to carry out the work.
Welsh Government has invested money into the sector to help tackle this rising cost of building materials, but the environment remains challenging.
Development is influenced by supply chains and the availability of building materials. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, affected staffing levels, limited access to building sites, prevented travel, and severely disrupted this chain.
Leaving the EU also had a significant impact on supply chains, with 60% of materials in the construction sector imported from the EU according to a report from the Chartered Institute of Housing. While the supply of timber has also been severely impacted by leaving the EU, according to the Construction Leadership Council with 80% to 90% of softwood imported from European countries.
Added to this, a shortage of steel has seen manufacturers stopping orders to prevent panic buying, and shipping costs have been increased. This has led to construction businesses raising their labour costs as they face price rises.
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During the pandemic a number of specialist planners retired or left the profession. As a result there is now a shortage of planners across Wales, which has led to less qualified people in planning teams, and resulted in planning applications being processed more slowly.
This is compounded by the fact that planning and environmental management is getting increasingly complex and requiring more specialist knowledge.
Drainage and phosphates
These issues are particularly relevant to Wales. As at April 2022, 28 housing schemes were affected by phosphate-related challenges.
Seven housing associations, which were due to deliver over 1,000 affordable homes for over 2,000 people, have been unable to progress as a result.
This can take months to resolve and cause significant delays to housing developments, and in turn result in fewer people being housed.
When it comes to the environment, the sector absolutely wants to be involved in these conversations to create responsible and sustainable housing. They want to invest in innovative approaches to help support the natural environment, and ensure that housing development doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment.
What we’re doing
We have been working with housing associations, Welsh Government and partner organisations across the sector to help in reviving housing development in Wales and unblock some of the biggest barriers facing housing.
It has been incredibly difficult to build because of these factors, but housing associations haven’t backed off from building new homes, and they are still committed to building as many new homes as possible as evidenced in the data.
Housing associations are focussed on bringing new housing into Wales, not just through building but through acquisition, remodelling and retrofitting.