- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
The Welsh Government is “very keen” to continue a project that addresses the shortage of affordable housing in rural communities, housing minister Carl Sargeant confirmed this week.
At Assembly questions on Wednesday (5 February), Labour Mid and West AM Joyce Watson asked whether the government would continue to support the role of Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs) beyond March 2014, when the current tranche of funding comes to an end.
The minister confirmed he would support the scheme beyond the funding deadline, but said the Welsh Government’s project partners, including local authorities and housing associations, would also have to agree.
A report published by the Welsh Government last month concluded that the RHE network has helped deliver 186 affordable homes since it was established in 2004, with a further 240 in the pipeline.
Mrs Watson said:
“According to that completed evaluation project, rural housing enablers offer good value for money and they are particularly effective where they have been in post for some time. The report suggests that the schemes are now fully up to speed and that the pace of progress is quickening with the results getting ever better. With all of that in mind, can you confirm whether or not you are looking at ways to extend funding for the RHEs beyond next month, when the current round of funding comes to an end?”
Mr Sargeant replied:
“I am, and I have said this in the Chamber in the past, very keen on how rural housing enablers operate. I am very keen that they continue to operate in the future and my support for them would continue beyond the time frame that the Member mentioned. However, this is a partnership and I hope that other interested bodies that are involved in that process recognise the support that is required. I would ask the Member to lobby those organisations as well as lobbying me.”
The report highlights how the RHE acted as an honest broker in the deal to develop Victoria House in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys. The large town centre property had been empty for over ten years prior to the RHE’s involvement. Unsuccessful attempts to encourage the owner to improve the appearance of the building ahead of a visit to the town by the Prince of Wales in July 2010 prompted the Town Council to ask the RHE to act as an intermediary.
The renovation project, which, where practicable, employed local labour, was completed in the autumn of 2012, and the owner is now considering letting the property as rented accommodation. The community have tasked the RHE to deal with a second problem property and other projects including a development for affordable homes. Adjoining Community Councils have heard about the success in Llanwrtyd Well, leading to further empty properties being back into use with support from a local authority loan scheme.