17 Dec 2021

Looking back – The Welsh housing landscape in 2021

This past year has been marked by both huge challenges for the housing sector in Wales but also a time of real progress in some key areas. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to be a huge force in how housing professionals build new homes and deliver vital services to communities there are real signs as we look ahead to 2022, that the evolution of housing policy will continue at pace.

A new political dawn

As we approached the Senedd election in March we engaged candidates across political parties in our ‘Back Housing 2021’ manifesto asks which included calls for a green deal for the sector, a workforce strategy and action to support community cohesion and address stigma. Following on from this we submitted evidence to help inform the programme for government and the work of Senedd committees.

A rights-based approach to housing

For us at CIH Cymru, a major mark of progress has been the commitment made in the recent Welsh Labour – Plaid Cymru Co-operation Agreement to introduce a white paper to enshrine a right to adequate housing into Welsh law. The first phase of our research commissioned through our back the bill coalition alongside Tai Pawb and Shelter Cymru saw Alma Economics produce a report that set out clearly – Wales can lead the way on housing as a human right.

This research will now enter it’s second phase setting out how that looks in practice, and importantly, the cost benefits that could be realised across a wide variety of public services and for society more widely. With cross-party support for a rights-based approach to housing, there’s real momentum to take an approach forward that could revolutionise how we address homelessness, tackle housing quality and build the level and type of homes we need in Wales for decades to come.   

Housing advice supporting safe hospital discharge

We’ve continued to provide an evidence base to help shape housing policy through our Tyfu Tai Cymru project. Responding to one of the most significant impacts of the pandemic we commissioned research focussing on the role of housing advice in facilitating effective hospital discharge. The findings were wide ranging but reflected on the need to ensure housing needs are captured in a timely way, housing expertise is engaged early-on when someone enters the healthcare setting and housing circumstances form part of the conversation in supporting unpaid carers. With the Senedd Health committee undertaking an inquiry into patient flow through hospitals and its impact on hospital discharge, this piece of work will form a central part of our evidence when we appear in front of the committee in the new year.

Highlighting the challenges in delivering new homes

The combination of Brexit, the lorry driver shortage and global demand have had a huge impact on the sector’s ability to build new social and affordable housing and maintain the quality and safety of existing homes. Our ‘Shocks in the supply chain: Understanding issues in housing supply chains’ revealed that some material costs have soared by 30%-40%, most organisations felt things had gotten worse in the latter half of 2021, with most reporting time delays had been the primary impact. The research showed the stark tension between the government’s ambitions to see 20,000 low-carbon social homes built in this Senedd term and the challenging operating environment.

Shaping the evidence based on COVID-19 and housing insecurity

Our jointly authored Health Impact Assessment (HIA) focussing on how COVID-19 has impacted housing insecurity with Public Health Wales showed why having a safe, secure place to call home is vital for everyone in Wales.  The HIA highlighted the stark differences in people’s experiences that find their roots in their housing circumstances. For some the pandemic has provided a chance to spend more time at home, save money, find a better work/life balance whilst enjoying a comfortable home environment. For others who live in poor housing conditions, in overcrowded homes or suffer domestic violence/abuse – being confined to their homes will have been a miserable experience, often making their circumstances even worse.

Supporting professionals to thrive

Whilst having a positive impact on the operating environment housing professionals operate in has been at the forefront of our influencing work, we’ve taken big strides to better support professionals during a turbulent and uncertain time. This has included surveying local authority housing professionals to amplify their experiences in addressing homelessness under considerable pressure; working through our Housing Futures Cymru group to better understand the challenges facing staff working in tenant-facing roles and services and increasing the amount of real life examples included in our evidence submissions to Welsh Government and Senedd committees.

We also launched our professionalism toolkit, created collaboratively with members, to provide a central resource that members can use to reflect on their own professionals practice, and identify ways to hone and improve their skills and approaches through on-going self-assessment. Add to that our new mentoring platform has made it easier still to access opportunities to connect, learn and gain fresh perspectives from colleagues in any part of the UK.