Spokesperson’s Questions, Housing, 9th May 2018

May 9, 2018 | Assembly Business, Cardiff Housing Issues, RCT Housing Issues, Vale Housing Issues | 0 comments

Plenary 9th May 2018

14:35
Watch on Senedd TV
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Diolch Llywydd.

Good afternoon, Minister. You made a statement last week on low-cost housing in Wales and that was — low-cost home ownership, I should say, it was specifically — but we had an interesting discussion, I felt, after that and several issues were raised. One of them was the possibility that rents in the social housing sector in Wales are in some cases going up quicker than those in the private rented sector. So, I wondered if you saw that as a particular problem at the moment?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

I thank you very much for that question, and I can confirm that rent within the social housing sector is one of those specific issues that we’ve asked the review of social housing to look into. As far as setting rent levels for next year is concerned, Welsh Government has asked Heriot-Watt University to undertake a piece of research in order to advise us, and I specifically asked the university to consider affordability amongst the work they’re doing there and to hold roundtables of tenants in both north Wales and south Wales in order to get an understanding from social housing tenants as to the issues that they’re facing with regards to affordability of rent.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks for that answer. I think that’s a good initiative, and particularly the consultation with the tenants, so I look forward to the outcome of that. Another issue that we did touch on last week — you actually raised an example of good practice that was going on with a particular housing association, Melin Homes in Newport, and you particularly cited the use of apprenticeships. Now, there have been concerns raised by the construction sector that not enough young people are being trained to go into house building and that does sometimes impede the progress of house building in Wales, as in the UK as a whole. Now, I wonder, do you see that your department has a role in replicating the good practice of Melin Homes, particularly in terms of their use of apprenticeships across Wales?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

I thank you for that question. We’re very keen to replicate the success of Melin Homes and to provide RSLs with the opportunity in order to undertake the kind of work that Melin Homes has been doing. This is one of the reasons why passing our registered social landlords Bill yesterday in the Assembly was so important, because it does allow RSLs to continue their work, which isn’t just about building homes, actually, it is about creating jobs and opportunities within communities as well. I was interested in the Federation of Small Businesses’s recent research, which they circulated to Assembly Members, which demonstrated the kind of wages that young people can be earning if they do enter the construction sector and working within that sector, starting off as an apprentice potentially, and, actually, those kind of wages were really attractive, and I think that it would be quite an eye-opener for young people to consider the kind of careers within construction. I’m also keen to see what we can do to support more young women to consider a career in construction, and this is something that the Welsh Government has been working on as part of its STEM subject work.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Yes. I think it’s correct that a lot of people can actually earn more money, potentially, by going into things like construction rather than, perhaps, going down the route of university education, because there is a limited financial advantage of having a degree today when so many people actually possess university degrees. So, given what you’ve just said — and I tend to agree with the general thrust of what you said — how far are you liaising with the education Minister and also perhaps Eluned Morgan, the skills Minister, in perhaps co-ordinating an approach so that perhaps more youngsters are encouraged to go into things like construction going forward?

Rebecca Evans AM

Rebecca Evans AM

Title: Minister for Housing and Regeneration Party: Welsh Labour

I thank you for that question. I would say that there is always value in learning and the experience of university, but we do need to be doing more to ensure that there is parity of esteem between academic and more practical skills as well. So, there’s certainly work to do there in terms of perceptions about careers in construction and other areas, and I can confirm that I have been working closely, particularly with Eluned Morgan with her employability role, in order to ensure that housing does provide a platform for young people to have the opportunity to enter the housing and construction industry, but actually do so in a way that offers them progression and good job opportunities and prospects for the future.