Markets Are Made Up of People - and People Need Good Housing; Nick Bennett, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, Argues That European Union Funding Should Be Used to Create Social Housing in Wales

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 9, 2011 | Go to article overview

Markets Are Made Up of People - and People Need Good Housing; Nick Bennett, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, Argues That European Union Funding Should Be Used to Create Social Housing in Wales


Byline: Nick Bennett

THURSDAY ESSAY * oday Community Housing Cymru welcomes delegates from all over Europe to the CECODHAS Housing Europe Conference.

Our aim is to share achievements and best practice in the field of sustainable energy and housing across the continent.

This year there will be particular emphasis on current and future EU funding opportunities and since Wales has the largest structural funds programme in the whole of the UK, it's encouraging to see the conference being held here in Cardiff.

It is a great honour for Wales to be hosting this European housing conference and looking at the key role of structural funds for sustainable energy in housing for the first time.

So much has changed for us in Wales since we joined the European Union. We witnessed the decline of the coal and steel industries in the 1980s and still deal with that legacy - European Regional Aid has had an important role to play in responding to this.

We voted for devolution in 1997 and for legislative powers earlier this year. As a direct result of the policies pursued by devolved Government, the proportion of people housed by the voluntary housing sector has increased from 6% to 12%, nearly 136,000 over the past five years.

Better regulation of the sector has also allowed traditional housing associations to increase their private borrowing by pounds 330m over the past three years.

The sector in Wales now spends more that pounds 670m per annum, employs 5,000 people directly and supports a further 11,000 indirect jobs.

Increasingly the sector is seen as an economic as well as a social player in Wales and indeed across Europe.

In 2009 the Welsh Government established the Arbed programme - a pounds 30m strategic energy performance investment programme which resulted in over 8,000 homes being retro-fitted in some of Wales' most deprived areas through a total of 28 projects.

Arbed is an excellent example of the potential to improve people's homes by ensuring a whole house approach to energy efficiency to tackle harder to treat homes where the impact of fuel poverty tends to be most severe; or a community or street by street approach, to support social cohesion and achieve economies of scale wherever possible.

Not only did the Arbed programme make homes more energy-efficient in order to reduce fuel bills, it increased local jobs and training opportunities, lowered carbon emissions and highlighted housing as a great example of a policy area where, with the right attention paid to designing investment programmes, a range of policy objectives outside housing can be delivered at the same time. …

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Markets Are Made Up of People - and People Need Good Housing; Nick Bennett, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, Argues That European Union Funding Should Be Used to Create Social Housing in Wales
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