Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 12:01 UK

Minister's rural housing promise

Jocelyn Davies AM, deputy housing minister
Jocelyn Davies said she would use 'all means available'

A series of measures to provide more affordable rural housing has been announced by the assembly government.

A network of specialist "housing enablers" will be expanded, while councils will be set targets.

A 500,000 pilot grant scheme for first time buyers to make their homes more energy efficient was also unveiled.

Deputy housing minister Jocelyn Davies said she was committed to 6,500 new affordable homes but opponents said the promise was a "distant dream".

Ms Davies made the announcement at the launch of the Joseph Rowntree Commission's report on rural housing.

400,000 is being made available to expand the pilot "rural enabler" posts across Wales.

She said the officials would work with local people and those involved in housing to look at identifying housing need, available land and resources.

Rural housing in Powys
Vale of Glamorgan
Renewal areas which qualify for efficiency grants for first time buyers. Source: Welsh Assembly Government

Energy efficiency grants worth up to 5,000 for first time buyers would be launched in housing renewal areas, where the difference between average incomes and mortgage costs is highest.

Ms Davies welcomed the report, adding: "We recognise that there are particular problems in delivering affordable housing in rural areas and I therefore welcomed the foundation's establishment of a commission to examine those issues in Wales."

She said she shared the commission's concerns about the social and cultural sustainability of some of our rural communities.

Ms Davies added, "I am the first to agree that the supply of affordable housing in rural Wales needs to be increased.

"We are committed to achieving this by all means available and are currently consulting on guidance for the preparation of affordable housing delivery plans."

An independent review is also looking at ways of delivering 6,500 new affordable homes.

"This review will also be looking at one of the key recommendations of the Rowntree report, which is changing the regulations of housing associations," said Ms Davies.

Other measures include:

  • The 25 planning authorities - councils and national parks - would be required to set targets for affordable housing in their areas.
  • Seeking the power for councils to suspend the right to buy in areas under pressure.
  • Funds being made available to develop the idea of community land trusts to provide more affordable homes.
  • Looking at the assembly government's own assets, including old NHS and WDA land, to see if it could be used for affordable housing.

Conservative housing spokesman Mark Isherwood AM said the Joseph Rowntree report was "timely and valuable" but made "worrying reading and highlights the clear failures in assembly government policy".

Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Peter Black AM said affordable housing was a "pressing issue" in rural and urban areas.

"We have almost 90,000 households on local authority waiting lists in Wales and yet the government only funded 346 new affordable homes in the last financial year, barely enough to scratch the surface of this problem."

"Their promise of providing 6,500 social houses by 2011 seems a distant dream."

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