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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Will Wales get its share of new affordable houses?

Gordon Brown's announcement yesterday that he will find an additional £2.1 billion to put into building affordable homes has posed a bit of a dilemma for the Welsh Assembly Government. Journalists were told that this money will mean an extra 20,000 homes will be built over the next two years on top of the 90,000 already in the pipeline but what will be the impact for Wales?

How we assess that depends on two things: is this new money and what will be the Welsh Government's Barnettised share of it? The Guardian indicates that the answer is not the one that the Welsh Deputy Housing Minister might hope for:

Half the extra £1.5bn will come from the Department of Communities and Local Government, and the other half will be redirected from other parts of Whitehall. The Home Office and Department for Transport were identified by the business secretary, Lord Mandelson, as the most likely targets for further savings.

So with the exception of relatively small sums coming from the Home Office it looks like there will be no extra money coming to Wales as the Assembly will already have benefited from a Barnett share of the money the first time it was allocated.

This leaves Wales having to play catch-up with its own resources and a target of 6,500 net new affordable homes by 2011 that is looking increasingly unattainable. In the first year of this Assembly they only managed 600 new homes as measured by their own methodology.

Those looking to Gordon Brown's announcement to make a difference in Wales will therefore be disappointed, though I suspect that many will also be relieved that we will not be subject to the discriminatory allocation policies that seems to go with the money.

I am puzzled by these frequent declarations by Labour (and to some extent the Conservatives) that they will "build more houses".

Both parties have pushed local authorities to abandon responsibility for public housing, and Labour continues to do so. How can Rhodri Morgan command, say, the Rhondda Cynon Taff cooperative mutual to build more houses when he does not have even indirect control over it?

And will Swansea and Wrexham UAs, who still have housing departments as a result of tenants' votes, be forced to build more to make up?
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