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20 January 2017

Tackling the shortage of affordable homes in Wales.

Experts from across Europe are calling for action to tackle the shortage of affordable housing in rural areas of Wales.

The day-long conference in Powys is also about the importance of creating and sustaining local jobs if communities in our countryside are to thrive.

The event is organised by Community Housing Cymru, (CHC) and one of the speakers is Sorcha Edwards, Secretary General of Housing Europe - the European Federation of public, co-operative and social housing organisations, which between them manage more than 26 million homes.

“Across Wales and the rest of mainland Europe young adults are struggling to get onto the housing ladder. This is why in 2015 Housing Europe launched “Housing for All” to boost the supply of affordable homes for live-able communities. It is a pan-European campaign calling for action and cooperation between political and financial institutions, countries, local authorities and housing providers.

It’s an important step forward as there is a huge need for the “construction and conversion of homes” to solve current and future housing needs. Just as urgent is the need to alleviate fuel poverty and increase energy efficiency”, said Sorcha Edwards.

In Wales, it is estimated that 70,000 people, approximately 31% of social housing tenants in Wales live in fuel poverty and Dr Glen Peters will use the conference to challenge others to follow in his footsteps by doing something about it.

He is Chief Executive of Western Solar which has built six homes at Pentre Solar in rural Pembrokeshire. The properties, which are for rent at 20% below the market rate, are also cheap to heat and run.

“They are no more expensive to construct than a traditionally built property. However, they have 11" of insulation and use 12% of the energy of a traditional home, which will save tenants approximately more than a £1,000 a year on their normal energy bills.

The development also benefited the local economy, with the creation of new skills and jobs, while around 60p in every £1 spent, has been retained in the area.

We dared to challenge the norm, to be innovative and to take a chance and we will be challenging others at the conference to follow in our footsteps,” said Dr Peters, who last November addressed the UN Climate Change conference in Marrakesh.

Grŵp Cynefin manages more than 4,500 homes across North Wales, many of which are in rural areas. It’s Chief Executive, Walis George, says they very much see their role being about more than bricks and mortar.

“We regularly get involved in projects to help protect communities. For example, we are supporting a group in Cynwyd, near Corwen, which wants to buy the local shop. If unsuccessful, residents would have to travel some distance to access basic services, while a lack of public transport would leave the village isolated.

In Botwnnog, a rural village on the Llŷn Peninsula, we developed 12 homes, and an adjoining enterprise centre, Canolfan Fenter Congl Meinciau. The centre provides employment opportunities and modern, state of the art, facilities for local businesses so they can run them from their local community, without having to move their base, and jobs, out of the area,” said Walis George.

One of those businesses is a yogurt and dessert manufacturer whose products are sold in leading supermarkets as well as stocked in national pub chains and Welsh hospitals.

The firm has created employment for ten people and Lynne King says she couldn’t have continued to grow her fledgling Daffodil Foods brand without the centre’s resources.

Lynne King said: “I was desperate for more space. My only other option was to relocate Daffodil Foods to Pwllheli and to take space above a shop, which was not what I wanted.

“Congl Meinciau is a lovely modern building in a quiet location. It’s got superfast broadband and you can park for free.”

CHC’s Rural Housing Conference - Innovative Rural Housing Solutions – is taking place on Thursday, 26 January, at the Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells.