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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Affordable housing plan unveiled
Terraced houses
Many first-time buyers are priced out of the housing market
Plans to increase affordable housing across Wales have been proposed by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Welsh Assembly Government is making an extra 35m available in grants.

Some publicly-owned land - including unwanted Forestry Commission plots - is being considered for development.

Social Justice and Regeneration Minister Edwina Hart unveiled the proposals on Monday, but they will be subject to consultation before being adopted.

Under the new system, local authorities would be given guidance to help them calculate their overall housing needs - and how much affordable housing they need to provide.

Under the current system of development controls, councils are able to set targets for affordable housing but few actually do.

They also have the power to set up "rural exception sites," which allow them to establish criteria so only local people can move into a particular zone.

House sale signs
Wales has seen some of the UK's highest property price rises

This measure, however, is usually only used on a small scale.

The assembly government's proposals will give more power to independent inspectors, who regulate councils' housing proposals, which form part of Unitary Development Plans (UDPs).

Currently, when an inspector reports on a council's UDP, the advice can be ignored.

The proposed changes would give them the power to demand a certain amount of social housing within each development.

The WAG is likely to say that language considerations come under the umbrella of other social factors taken into account when planning decisions are made.

The Chartered Institute of Housing in Wales has broadly welcomed the proposals. Director Keith Edwards said it was important to provide people with opportunities.

"If we look at the figures for house price rises towards the end of last year, for example, seven of the top 20 hotspots were in Wales, and some in non-traditional areas like Neath Port Talbot and Blaenau Gwent."

Mr Edwards said that if more affordable housing was to be made available, it had to be a mix of homes - with accommodation available to rent as well as buy.

There also had to be careful planning, he added: "We need to make sure we do not make the same mistakes of building the wrong types of houses in the wrong places, as we have in the past."

Plaid Cymru welcomed the plans but said the WAG had been slow in dealing with "a crucial issue in communities throughout Wales."

The Welsh Language Society, one of the groups campaigning for affordable housing, also gave a guarded welcome, but said the WAG had "failed to tackle the root of the problem, which is the need for control over the housing market."




SEE ALSO:
Valleys tops for cheapest homes
25 Apr 05 |  South East Wales


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