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A Place to Call Your Own

2005 Gorffenaf 8 12:00 AM
Yn Brecon and Radnor Express

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things a person does in their lifetime. Housing issues certainly generate a steady stream of correspondence and visits by constituents, who are often feeling anxious or exasperated. No wonder.

Rising house prices have left many unable to afford a home. Recent figures from the Principality building society show Powys has one of the highest average housing prices in Wales. This is compounded by the fact that there is an ever shrinking amount of housing available to rent from the Council or Housing Associations.

Young people are being forced to move away from the communities they have grown up in because they cannot find anywhere to live. When they go, they take their skills and talents with them, with obvious consequences for the provision of vital services, such as health care and education, as well as the more general impact on the economic development of the region.

I met with our local Rural Housing Enabler recently, to discuss housing needs in the constituency. Housing Enablers have a vital role to play in planning for sustainable communities. They survey local people to establish housing needs in a particular area, and then report back to the council with their findings so that, hopefully, the right number of the right types of housing will be built in the right places. But they can't do it on their own, and that is why I have been pressing the Government to do more to help.

One really good thing the Government could do is to extend the Home-buy scheme, which helps people but their own homes. I know one constituent has been trying to purchase a house through the Homebuy scheme for the last two years but has been unable to find a property in Brecon to meet the scheme's criteria because the areas house prices have become so high.

Encouraging the formation and development of Community Land Trusts would also help - these are not-for-profit organisations which acquire land for affordable homes.

Councils own considerable amounts of land themselves, and I believe this land should also be made available for building houses that the people the council are supposed to represent can afford.

I would also like to see local authorities being allowed to re-classify tied or disused agricultural buildings as housing for 'local use' to increase options available to local people, and to require a change of use application for property bought as a second home.

It is time the Government woke up and took action. A revised version of the TAN 2 planning guidance which covers affordable housing is still sitting on the Minister's desk and I fear that, while it remains there, the stress and worry of searching of a place to call your own will continue.

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