Council agrees ‘radical’ affordable housing plan
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
A ‘radical’ plan for half of new homes in Monmouthshire over the next 11 years to be affordable has been approved by county councillors.
They have endorsed a new planning blueprint that contains a target of between 1,460 and 2,000 new homes across the county, with 730 to 1,000 of those classed as affordable including 68 per cent being available for social rent.
But Councillor Paul Griffiths, the Labour cabinet member responsible for the county’s 2021-2033 replacement local development plan, has warned to do so will require support from the Welsh Government and a new approach to building affordable homes.
He said Britain has relied on adding affordable homes on to private developments but said that approach has failed.
“For the last two decades the UK has followed the model of providing affordable housing on the back of market housing,” said the Chepstow Castle and Larkfield councillor.
He said councillors will be familiar with how approved developments haven’t delivered the affordable homes promised.
“All too often developers will say on the back of viability figures (they can’t deliver) and the figure (for affordable homes) will be revised downwards.”
He added: “It is a radical plan and many have put it to me, can we deliver it? We can only achieve that level of social housing with the support of the Welsh Government.”
He said he has met with Julie James, the Welsh Government minister responsible for housing, and outlined the council executive’s view that to develop social housing on the scale proposed it will require an adjustment to the social housing grant that is currently paid at a standard rate across Wales.
He said to provide social housing “in a high cost environment such as Monmouthshire” a higher rate grant would be needed and the council, which doesn’t have its own housing stock, could also make land in its ownership available.
“I’m sad to say she could not commit to any figures but she understood the argument,” said Cllr Griffiths.
Figures reported by the Local Democray Reporting Service last week showed that the average wait for social housing in Monmouthshire was just over 13 months last year.
The council also spent £73,143 on temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfast, for those in need of housing during the 2021/22 financial year due to a lack of available permanent accommodation.
Work to identify potential sites for up to 2,000 homes is currently underway, and will be subject to further public consultation. However areas along the Wye, north of north of Bigsweir Bridge including Monmouth, won’t be allocated due to a block on developments intended to prevent phosphates entering the river.
The overall number of new homes, included in an earlier version of the plan, was reduced from between 8,366 and 7,605 following objections from the Welsh Government. Civil servants said those numbers could see Monmouthshire developing at the expense of the “national growth area of Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys”.
Concerns over whether the homes could be delivered were raised by Conservative members.
Gobion Fawr councillor Alistair Neill said he feared a downturn in the housing market could impact negatively on the plans and Caerwent member Phil Murphy pointed out that revenue from the sale of council land has previously been reserved for funding new school building projects.
But Green Party councillor for Llantilio Crossenny, Ian Chandler, said a housing “slowdown” could be an “opportunity” for the council if building companies are looking for work.
A further public consultation on the replacement local development plan will be run during December and January.
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