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Pembrokeshire Herald Column - 3rd November 2023

Housing is a hot issue for many people in Pembrokeshire. Not only is it becoming more and more difficult for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder, but there are also challenges in social housing.

We have a social housing waiting list of around 5,000 households, which has seen an increase of more than 50% since 2018. In Wales, since March 2020 the Labour government has continued to take a ‘no-one left out’ approach, which has seen far greater numbers of people supported with temporary accommodation than before the pandemic – but we do still face huge challenges. We know that more than 200,000 households in Wales are struggling to meet mortgage and rental costs. The cost of living continues to bite, and people are struggling to make ends meet.. As for first-time buyers, average house prices were around £255,000 last year, while median pay was stuck at £31,694. The situation has only been worsened by the Tories’ mismanagement of the economy, with 9,523 families in Pembrokeshire facing an annual mortgage payment increase of £2,100.

The last 13 years of the Tories has left us with low growth, the highest tax burden in 70 years, and inflation still running at just under 7%. The outlook right now is bleak, with little hope that the current UK Government has any solution to this growing problem.

Tory chaos in Westminster has a direct impact in Pembrokeshire, having shrunk the budgets that matter most to people’s lives. PCC recognise that we need more housing and despite this tough landscape they are looking to develop 350 new build housing units by 2027 and their business plan has identified 400 affordable housing units with sites in Johnston, Tiers Cross, Milford Haven, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Newport and Neyland in the active work programme, with support from the Welsh Labour government. Furthermore, they are looking to increase the range of housing projects, to include the development of Community Land Trusts and making small plots of council land available for those seeking self-build opportunities.

The Welsh Labour Government have similarly been active in tackling the issue of second homes and holiday lets. The tourism industry plays an important role in Pembrokeshire but there must be more recognition of the impact it has on local communities. The council tax premium on second homes and the increase in the number of days for holiday lets to qualify for business rates is welcomed. Furthermore, the scale of the problem means that we must always be thinking of new solutions, and I am encouraged by the steps being taken in Gwynedd to examine the impact of Local Planning Authorities requiring property owners to obtain planning permission before changing the use of their properties into second homes or short-term holiday lets.

PCC and our Welsh Labour Government cannot tackle this problem alone though. What we desperately need is a UK Labour Government in Westminster that is committed to building homes again, and which will work in tandem with the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff and with PCC to tackle this housing crisis. UK Labour’s plan on housing is bold – a housing recovery plan, the next generation of “new towns”, stronger powers and controls for Mayors over planning and housing investment, fast-track approval for brownfield development sites and supporting young people with a government backed mortgage guarantee scheme. We cannot allow the Tories to fan the flames of this housing crisis, by refusing to engage constructively with the Welsh Labour Government and starving it of vital funds. It’s time for change and a bold vision for housing in Pembrokeshire.

You can read the article in the Pembrokeshire Herald on page 66 here


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