Warm words but little more

Aaron Hill assesses the Programme for Government’s commitments to the housing sector.

Those of us working in policy and public affairs in the Bay bubble can be a strange bunch, and we tend to get very excited about budget announcements, new legislation and the publication of a Programme for Government. It’s not quite unwrapping your presents on Christmas Day, but after weeks and months spent making your list (of policy asks), and writing a nice letters to the people who can deliver them, the sense of anticipation can come close to a visit from St. Nick, and this Tuesday was no different.

I spent most of my time in the build up to the Assembly election in May on the campaign trail with Homes for Wales. Our campaign brought together a wide coalition of organisations and thousands of people to call for end to the housing crisis in Wales. Every party in with a sniff of election to the Senedd supported our campaign, many basing their manifesto pledges on housing on the most up to date evidence of housing demand and need in Wales and pledging to deliver 20,000 affordable homes. This was a great success for the campaign, and when the new Cabinet Secretary Carl Sargeant confirmed Welsh Government would commit to this target in June we were delighted.

Tuesday came and Taking Wales Forward put what we already knew down on paper: 20,000 affordable homes, including 6,000 via Help to Buy. Although this target is a huge part of the ambitious plan we called for it was difficult not to feel a sense of deflation with the Programme as a whole.

The lack of detail in the 16 page Programme has been covered brilliantly on this blog already, and it truly is remarkable. The delay in the publication of this document while Government treated its Brexit related bruises was understandable, but the absence of detail on delivery, legislation and funding is not. Tackling poverty – a phrase we heard so often in the fourth Assembly term – doesn’t get a mention; Brexit – the reason we were made to wait until a third of the way through the first year of this Government for the Programme – only appears twice!

We’ve already begun work on how to deliver our end of the bargain at Community Housing Cymru, but so much of what we need to deliver relies on a strong economy and a plan from Government (both sides of the Severn) for post-EU Wales. The Programme for Government offers warm words, and little sense of coherent join up on any of these things. A National Infrastructure Commission, City Deal(s), a metro and a motorway will all impact on the delivery of those 20,000 homes, how we fund them and where we build them, but there is little or no detail on any of those things.

An ambitious affordable housing target is welcome, but after reading the rest of the Programme, I feel like I got my train set, but Dad forgot to buy the batteries.

Aaron Hill is Public Affairs Manager for Community Housing Cymru.

4 thoughts on “Warm words but little more

  1. What do you want the Welsh government to say about Brexit? The UK government does not have the first idea what to do about it. They are hopelessly split and increasingly appalled and paralysed by the task ahead of them, which will consume most of their energies for years. Meanwhile the Welsh government, like everyone else, does not know what the parameters will be in international trade or what changes there will be to law and regulation.. Businessmen who export to Africa are pleased enough with the lower pound. Those exporting to or importing from Europe are worried – and there are more of them. The Welsh Government can bluster that the UK should replace the structural funds we get from Europe but they have no leverage so cuts are a racing certainty. They can tell Ford they want them to stay but if Slovakia makes more sense for the next generation of engines, that’s where they’ll invest. We are in the phoney war period when hostilities have just been declared but fighting has yet to break out. Talk that the economy has survived Brexit is comical. As the man said in a different context, we are talking about a process not an event and it hasn’t started yet. Walpole is said to have remarked at the outbreak of a war in the 18th century: “Now they ring their bells. Soon they will wring their hands”. Couldn’t be more apt.

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