THE BLOG
14/11/2013 07:00 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:56 GMT

A Welsh 'Right to Buy' : Solving the Housing Shortage

In Wales, house-building is at its lowest since the second-world war.

The Welsh Government has had devolved responsibility for housing since 1999. In those years, we've seen housing as a priority dip lower and lower on their agenda.

If a society can get their housing policy right, a lot of other social justice problems will be at worst alleviated, at best eliminated. Health, education and family life are all intertwined with having a stable home environment.

That's the key: it's not just about houses, it's about homes.

Welsh Conservatives have campaigned on many housing issues for Welsh families over the years, and this week, we have launched a policy which deals with three key elements of the housing agenda.

We believe house building needs to be stimulated and empowered through deregulation and consultation at the local level. Too often, Welsh Government red-tape is stopping builders from making their developments commercially viable.

We believe that local authorities should base their affordable housing requirements on each planning application upon affordable housing viability assessments for each site.

This is integral to stimulating house building. We know that we need affordable homes, however if we apply a blanket target to all new housing developments, builders find it hard to make certain developments work. We should recognise viability assessments and ensure that homes which are built can be lived in and sold.

There is a lot of merit in Margaret Thatcher's scheme of the 1980s. It was the first time that people on low incomes could finally own their own home.

We know there are many ideological arguments surrounding home-ownership. Nevertheless, it is a fact that people in social housing often live there far longer than many private renters. These tenants must have the opportunity to buy their home if they are able to do so.

To ensure the schemes success we recognise, along with the UK Government, that for each home sold, one would need to be built in its place. We also recognise that in order to make Right to Buy work, there first needs to be a drive in house building to ensure the supply of social housing is not further depleted. This is something that Welsh Labour has absolutely failed to understand.

Last year a grass-roots petition to the Assembly's Petition Committee raised 173 responses and is going to be further debated later this month. We hope that the Minister will listen to those who want to buy their own home and think about what could be done to implement this important social policy.

Working with the whole market, a Welsh Conservative Government would consult on the best way to make this scheme work for Wales.

We support the work which has been done by Welsh Government to start tackling the problem of empty homes in our communities. The Welsh Government target to ensure there are 5,000 of these problem homes are returned to use by mid-2016. We believe they have vastly underestimated this issue.

The Welsh Government does not monitor how many homes are empty throughout Wales, and Welsh Conservative Freedom of Information requests found that there are around 32,000 empty homes throughout Wales - over 10,000 more than the former Housing Minister said that there were in January 2013.

Welsh Conservatives recognise there is an individual story behind each empty home. In certain cases, for example in the case of bereavement, the family may need time and often support to work out what may be the best solution.

We know there is much to be done. We believe that everyone within the housing sector needs to be consulted on a regular basis, because even whilst we were writing our policy, the situation changed very quickly. We must respond promptly and with care to tackle the huge housing crisis which has built up over the past fourteen years of Labour inaction.