Having a good quality home that meets our needs is vital.

It influences our physical and mental well-being, our communities and the environment around us. Poor-quality housing is strongly associated with inequality, poverty and limited life chances. The buildings we live in typically exist for a century or more and so, the decisions we make today will have a profound impact on the well-being of future generations – both directly on their living conditions and more broadly, on Wales’s  carbon emissions, our landscape, economy and communities.

The current renewed focus on housing is UK wide, and is being driven by the public, as well as political leadership. This is due to the obvious need to decarbonise our homes to meet emission targets. It is also because housing shortages are impacting many more people than before – unaffordability, lack of social housing, the insecure private rented sector and homelessness are issues that have become more visible and arguably have arisen because long-term thinking and a focus on preventing problems from occurring has been absent or not done effectively.

Welsh Government, local authorities and registered social landlords are committing themselves to extensive house building to address issues of housing shortage. 

Through having shared staff with Constructing Excellence in Wales and also with United Welsh housing, the Commissioner’s initial focus was to identify where she can have the biggest impact – supporting the shift towards a low-carbon green economy and better-quality work through developing Welsh enterprises and a supply chain that can deliver future-fit housing.

However in 2020, Wales is still building homes, which do not support our carbon emission targets.

The cost of meeting the decarbonisation of housing is significant but it will deliver significant benefits across a number of well-being goals. The Institute of Welsh Affairs estimate that £5 billion is needed over 15 years, but that this would generate an increase in Gross Value Added to the Welsh economy of £2.2 billion, saving approximately £67 million in savings to the health service.

Homelessness also remains a significant problem but actions being taken under the Well-being of Future Generations Act have the potential to prevent it. Both the Welsh Government Homelessness Strategy and the report of the Homelessness Action Group reinforce the requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. A member of the team sat on the Homelessness Action Group for Wales in 2019-20. 

Here are some of the projects we have worked on regarding housing:

  • Low Carbon Housing
    Low Carbon Housing

    In November 2017, the Commissioner submitted a response to the National Assembly for Wales Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee’s consultation on low-carbon housing, drawing on the expertise of organisations including Community Housing Cymru, Community Energy Wales, Rounded Developments, the Design Commission for Wales, Melin Homes, WWF Cymru, One Planet Developments and SPECIFIC (Swansea University). She suggested the following preliminary criteria for housing that is ‘fit for the future’:

      Adaptability

      Net positive environmental impact

      Protection from future challenges

      Community well-being

      Green economy

  • Affordable Housing Review
    Affordable Housing Review

    We are also seeking to influence the Affordable Housing Review commissioned by the Deputy Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Hannah Blythyn AM.

  • Innovative Housing Programme (IHP)
    Innovative Housing Programme (IHP)

    Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) has been running since 2017 to support the development of innovative approaches to delivering housing in Wales. We have been supporting and influencing the requirements of this grant – a £90million grant to bring a change to housing in Wales. The Commissioner wants to ensure that opportunities to contribute to all of the seven well-being goals are an intrinsic part of the programme.

  • Decarbonisation of Homes
    Decarbonisation of Homes

    Improving the efficiency of existing housing stock will be critical to achieving our carbon emission targets. We supported and influenced the work of the Advisory group leading to the publication of Better Homes, Better Wales, Better World in July 2019 with key recommendations for a ten year programme to decarbonise social housing by 2030. This would achieve multiple benefits across the well-being goals including tackling poverty, improving health and creating new jobs to support the local economy.

In May 2020 I published a 5 point plan highlighting investment to support a Green Recovery from the current Covid crisis. The plan includes a recommendation to:

  • Develop an economic stimulus package that leads to job creation and supports the decarbonisation of homes, through building new low carbon affordable housing and investing in a national programme to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes.

Below are the areas I recommend that all public bodies, including Welsh Government, should focus on:

  • Increasing the supply of the right type of affordable homes
  • Rising to the challenge of the housing crisis
  • Seeing housing as a driver of well-being
  • Improving the way we plan and design houses
  • Decarbonising our homes

For my full evidence, assessment, key findings and advice please see the section on Housing on our designated future generations report website

Useful Resources