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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Protecting our communities

Today's Wales on Sunday contains an interesting article on the Matthew Taylor Review into affordable housing. Although the review covers just England, Community Housing Cymru has felt the need to give evidence to it because of the impact that its recommendations may have on Wales.

Chief Executive, Nick Bennett believes that restrictions on second home ownership imposed on England could send investors across the border into rural Wales. He is particularly concerned with proposals that would require local Councils to give planning permission for a second home in England. He is worried that if such a requirement does not apply here then, as a result of the proposed cut in capital gains tax on second homes, there will be a clear incentive for monied outsiders to outbid locals on properties in Powys, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Gwynedd and so on.

Nick may well be right, however I find it inconceivable that the Welsh Government will sit back and watch planning restrictions be imposed on English second homes and not follow suit in Wales.

I have to say that I found Adam Price's rhetoric on this subject to be massively over-the-top. His warning of “a knock-on effect with second home housing refugees massing at the border, deprived of their inalienable right to have a weekend home in the Cotswolds or the Lake District, seeking recompense in Wales” is unnecessarily emotive and inflammatory. It is true that some Welsh communities have been particularly badly hit by this phenomena, but that sort of language does nothing to address the situation at all and, in fact, adds to existing tensions and resentments.

What we are all waiting for is a response from the Welsh Government and sure enough Plaid Cymru's Deputy Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies tells the paper that the Assembly Government is looking at a number of policies “to ensure there are enough affordable homes for young people in Wales to be able to stay in their local communities and ensure that they not only survive but thrive”. That hardly inspires confidence.

It seems that the issue of affordable housing has been shuffled off for now into another review along with many other difficult policies. Effective policy tools such as Homebuy have been put on hold, whilst the affordable housing legislative competence order deals only with the right to buy and fails to give the Assembly the wider legislative powers it needs to deal with this issue, especially in the field of planning but also in areas such as the reform of tenure, homelessness legislation, land supply, dealing with empty homes and so on. Plaid Cymru talk the talk but we have yet to see any meaningful action.
Don't worry, Port Talbot won't be badly affected by people wanting to buy second homes there, judging by the low house prices compaired to the rest of Wales, there's issues with people wanting to buy First homes there!
This is, of course, "our" Matthew Taylor, MP for Truro and St Austell, not the Blairite think-tank organiser.
You forgot the fact that any grants for first time buyers will only inflate prices further.

People on good salaries such as myself and my partner now find ourselves still years away from ever being able to afford our own properties. We are still paying off student debt and with the credit crunch taking effect we cannot even dream of buying and are instead wasting thousands on renting which we could instead be investing.
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