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Isherwood: Affordable housing is the key to social justice

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"As house prices, homelessness and waiting lists have risen, the Assembly Government has massively cut funding for social and affordable housing. Improving housing can make huge savings in other budgets, improving health, driving community development, stimulating economic development, reducing crime, and improving the quality of life and the life chances of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Instead, however, the Welsh social housing grant, even with £21 million for extra care housing added, will be less in 2008 than when the Conservatives left office in 1997. That represents a huge cut in real terms.

That is why this motion calls on the Assembly Government to commit to additional funding in affordable housing, and to acknowledge that an increase in investment and capacity for housing and housing-related support is essential for the future social cohesion of Wales. Without urgent action to tackle the Welsh housing crisis, Labour's multimillion pound investment in community regeneration will be built on sand.

The number of households needing accommodation in Wales is forecast to increase by 12 per cent over the next 10 years. Since devolution, however, the number of new social housing dwellings built in Wales has been cut by three quarters. In the first six years of devolution, housing associations and councils built 4,436 new dwellings.

That contrasts with the 17,395 built in Wales during the last six years of Conservative Government. Since devolution, the number of people in Wales receiving Government help to buy their first house has fallen by two thirds.

In Wales today, an estimated 0.25 million people are living in unfit accommodation. According to Shelter, one in seven British children are growing up homeless or in bad housing. Wales has the worst housing conditions in the UK, and children living in poor housing run a far higher risk of suffering ill health and educational underachievement.

Recent claimed falls in homelessness are contradicted by the rising hidden homelessness reported to the Social Justice and Regeneration Committee during its review of youth homelessness. The figure for homeless households in Wales has more than doubled, rising by 127 per cent since 1999, which is the highest since 1978. As Housing Forum Cymru has stated,

'housing is creating a more divided Wales…The consequences for social cohesion…are enormous'.

Cymuned is campaigning for y fro Gymraeg, and for policies that will strengthen Cymraeg-speaking communities, focused on housing and the economy.

Dylai'r Gymraeg fod yn ganolog i'n cymunedau, a rhaid i dai fforddiadwy fod yn ganolog i'n cymunedau hefyd.

However, housing receives less than one page of space in the 74-page Assembly Government annual report on 'Iaith Pawb'. In evidence to the National Assembly, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted the severe shortage of low-cost housing in many rural areas, and the particularly difficult problems of young people in rural areas. Cardiff University states that good housing ought to be at the heart of community regeneration, and the Chartered Institute of Housing states that an adequate supply of affordable housing is the key to creating sustainable communities.

The Confederation of British Industry has expressed its disappointment that housing does not feature in the Assembly Government's 'Wales: a Vibrant Economy' document, stating that,

'New housing is a key factor in attracting investment into Wales, and in retaining the workforce'.

That reflects previous warnings by Business in the Community that,

'The lack of affordable housing impacts on the ability to sustain existing businesses and to attract new businesses'.

The Assembly Government boasts of its affordable housing toolkit. However, while acknowledging that it is a useful checklist, the Wales Rural Housing Associations Group and Wales Rural Housing Authorities Network adds that there is nothing new or innovative in the guide.

They also expressed disappointment that the toolkit does not show a firm commitment to community land trusts, and concern that the rural homebuy assisted home purchase scheme is not working. We welcome some small progress on community land trusts since then, but there is so much more to do.

The 17 organisations in Housing Forum Cymru state that, if social housing providers are to build the 2,500 plus units a year estimated to be required to meet current need and the backlog of households in need, the current social housing grant will need to be increased substantially. Just keeping inflationary pace with the grant for social housing in 1996 would mean that it should be £111 million now, as opposed to the £93.4 million in the Assembly Government's budget for next year.

The Welsh Conservatives believe that investment in social housing must return to the high levels achieved up to 1997, and, as a first step, we have pledged to invest an extra £16 million. We would also launch a wide-ranging housing review, involving local authorities, housing associations, mortgage lenders, the house-building industry, tenants' representatives, Welsh language groups, and wider voluntary and business sector organisations with housing interests. That would seek to maximise the use of existing investment and find ways of increasing total investment in affordable housing throughout Wales.

On that basis, we would have supported Labour's amendment 1, had it not also sought to delete point 2 of our motion. Its refusal to admit that we need additional public investment in affordable housing, as well as a real working partnership in the housing sector, displays an arrogant contempt for everything that that sector has been telling us for years.

As Shelter Cymru states, the long-term answer is greater investment in affordable housing. After eight years, the Assembly Government has still shown absolutely no understanding of what partnership working with the housing sector really means.

As financially mature organisations, housing associations are well positioned to increase the supply of social housing and to tackle the Wales-wide crisis of affordability. Housing associations are community enterprises and social businesses—neither public nor designed to pursue profit. They currently invest more than £200 million per annum in Wales.

A more effective regulatory environment that gives housing associations the freedom to create more social housing and increase community investment outside public expenditure restrictions could empower them as social entrepreneurs to better meet the critical housing needs of communities across Wales, generating millions of pounds of additional investment and responding to the needs of diverse, but often disadvantaged, communities.

By devolved Government regulating less, housing associations could borrow more to invest in housing and broader community investment, focusing on outcomes, not processes, at a time of real need.

Low-cost home ownership schemes such as homebuy must be extended and modernised. We must seek a common social housing tenancy and establish new forms of housing co-operatives, including an expansion of community land trust developments to bring house prices within the reach of first-time buyers. We will therefore be supporting amendment 6 in the name of Kirsty Williams.

On the broader issues, land prices are critical to affordability, and so we must focus on planning guidelines and land availability. Such land must come not only from the public sector, but also from partnership with private landowners. I know from discussions with organisations ranging from the countryside landowners' association to the churches that they are keen to assist.

Cymorth Cymru has expressed its concerns about reductions in funding for housing-related support; it states that it is already seeing funding squeezed to the point of projects having to close, and the quality of services is undermined. In the Assembly Government's latest budget, funding for supported housing schemes suffered a cut in real terms.

The result will be more homelessness, more crime, more bedblocking, more children and young people not reaching their potential, and more older people leading isolated, unhealthy, lonely lives. We must therefore work with the UK Government to protect housing related support from the Treasury and investigate a reconfiguration of devolved budgets in recognition of the contribution that housing related support makes to health and social services, regeneration, education, lifelong learning and skills.

We will oppose amendments 2, 5 and 7, relating to the right to buy. Sales are made to the sitting tenants, and so property sold under the right to buy would not become available to a new tenant for many years, even if it were not sold. Research by Steve Wilcox, professor of housing policy at the University of York, found that more than 60 per cent of all households that exercised the right to buy between 1980 and 1990 are still in residence now. As he states,

'simply stopping the RTB in high demand areas will have little or no immediate effect on relet levels in those areas. Indeed, they will still continue to reflect the long-term but gradual impact of RTB sales over the last two decades. Restricting the RTB is not a quick fix'.

Ending the right to buy would provide, on average, a new letting only 10 or more years hence. By contrast, investment in new dwellings provides lettings from the day of their completion, and the need is now. It is our social responsibility to ensure that every part of society—individuals, families, community groups, businesses and the public sector—plays its part in improving the wellbeing of every member of society. It is also our social responsibility to support this motion."

"Wrth i brisiau tai, digartrefedd a rhestrau aros godi, mae Llywodraeth y Cynulliad wedi gwneud toriadau anferth i gyllid tai cymdeithasol a thai fforddiadwy. O wella tai gellir gwneud arbedion enfawr mewn cyllidebau eraill, gwella iechyd, hybu datblygiad cymunedau, ysgogi datblygu economaidd, gostwng troseddau, a gwella ansawdd bywyd a chyfleoedd bywyd y bobl sydd fwyaf agored i niwed yn ein cymdeithas.

Yn hytrach, fodd bynnag, bydd grant tai cymdeithasol Cymru, hyd yn oed o ychwanegu'r £21 miliwn ar gyfer tai gofal ychwanegol, yn llai yn 2008 nag yr oedd pan adawodd y Ceidwadwyr y llywodraeth ym 1997. Dyna doriad anferth mewn termau real.

Dyna pam y mae'r cynnig hwn yn galw ar Lywodraeth y Cynulliad i ymrwymo i roi rhagor o gyllid at dai fforddiadwy, a chydnabod ei bod yn hanfodol cynyddu buddsoddiant a gallu o ran tai a chymorth sy'n gysylltiedig â thai er cydlyniad Cymru at y dyfodol. Oni chymerir camau brys i fynd i'r afael ag argyfwng tai Cymru, ni fydd y miliynau y mae Llafur yn eu buddsoddi mewn adfywio cymunedol yn ddim namyn ty ar y tywod.

Rhagwelir y bydd nifer yr aelwydydd y bydd arnynt angen llety yng Nghymru'n cynyddu gan 12 y cant yn ystod y 10 mlynedd nesaf. Ers datganoli, fodd bynnag, mae nifer yr anheddau cymdeithasol newydd a godwyd yng Nghymru wedi eu torri o dri chwarter. Yn ystod chwe blynedd cyntaf datganoli, cododd y cymdeithasau tai a'r cynghorau 4,436 o anheddau newydd. Cymharwch hynny â'r 17,395 a godwyd yng Nghymru yn ystod chwe blynedd olaf y Llywodraeth Geidwadol. Ers datganoli, mae nifer y bobl sydd wedi cael help i brynu eu ty cyntaf wedi gostwng o ddau draean.

Yng Nghymru heddiw, tybir bod 0.25 miliwn yn byw mewn tai anaddas. Yn ôl Shelter, mae un o bob saith o blant Prydain yn cael eu magu'n ddigartref neu mewn tai gwael. Mae cyflwr tai Cymru gyda'r gwaethaf yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol, ac mae plant sy'n byw mewn tai gwael mewn perygl o iechyd gwael a thangyflawni addysgiadol.

Mae'r gostyngiad honedig diweddar mewn digartrefedd yn cael yn cael ei wrth-ddweud gan y cynnydd mewn digartrefedd cudd y cafodd y Pwyllgor Cyfiawnder Cymdeithasol ac Adfywio wybod amdano yn ystod ei adolygiad o ddigartrefedd ymysg ieuenctid. Mae'r ffigur ar gyfer aelwydydd digartref yng Nghymru wedi mwy na dyblu, gan godi 127 y cant er 1999, sef yr uchaf er 1978. Fel y nodwyd gan Fforwm Tai Cymru,

'mae tai yn creu Cymru fwy rhanedig...Mae'r canlyniadau ar gyfer cydlyniad cymdeithasol…yn enfawr'.

Mae Cymuned yn ymgyrchu dros y fro Gymraeg, a thros bolisïau a fydd yn cryfhau cymunedau Cymraeg eu hiaith, ac sy'n canolbwyntio ar dai a'r economi.

The Welsh language should be at the heart of our communities, and affordable housing must also be at the heart of our communities.

Serch hynny, neilltuir llai nag un dudalen i dai yn adroddiad blynyddol 74-tudalen Llywodraeth y Cynulliad ar 'Iaith Pawb'. Wrth gyflwyno tystiolaeth i'r Cynulliad Cenedlaethol, cyfeiriodd Sefydliad Joseph Rowntree at y prinder dybryd o dai cost-isel mewn sawl ardal wledig, a phroblemau neilltuol pobl ifanc mewn ardaloedd gwledig.

Dywed Prifysgol Caerdydd y dylai tai fod yn ganolog i adfywio cymunedol, a dywed y Sefydliad Tai Siartredig mai cyflenwad digonol o dai fforddiadwy yw'r allwedd i greu cymunedau cynaliadwy. Mynegodd Conffederasiwn Diwydiant Prydain ei siom nad yw tai yn cael sylw yn nogfen Llywodraeth y Cynulliad 'Cymru: Economi yn Ffynnu', gan nodi,

'Bod tai newydd yn ffactor allweddol o ran denu buddsoddiad i Gymru, ac o ran cadw'r gweithlu'.

Mae hynny'n adlewyrchu rhybuddion blaenorol a wnaethpwyd gan Busnes yn y Gymuned,

'Bod prinder tai fforddiadwy'n cael effaith ar y gallu i gynnal busnesau cyfredol ac i ddenu busnesau newydd'.

Mae Llywodraeth y Cynulliad yn ymffrostio ynglyn â'i phecyn tai fforddiadwy. Ond, er cydnabod ei fod yn rhestr wirio ddefnyddiol, ychwanega Grwp Cymdeithasau Tai Gwledig Cymru a Rhwydwaith Awdurdodau Tai Gwledig Cymru nad oes dim yn newydd nac yn arloesol yn yr arweiniad.

Mynegasant eu siomedigaeth hefyd nad yw'r pecyn yn dangos ymrwymiad pendant i ymddiriedolaethau tir cymunedol, a phryder nad yw'r cynllun cymorth prynu gwledig yn gweithio. Yr ydym yn croesawu rhywfaint o gynnydd bychan gyda'r ymddiriedolaethau tir cymunedol ers hynny, ond mae cymaint mwy i'w wneud.

Dywed y 17 mudiad sy'n rhan o Fforwm Tai Cymru, os yw'r darparwyr tai cymdeithasol i adeiladu'r 2,500 a mwy o unedau'r flwyddyn y tybir sy'n ofynnol i ddiwallu'r galw cyfredol a'r holl aelwydydd sydd eisoes mewn angen, bydd angen cynyddu'r grant tai cymdeithasol presennol yn sylweddol. Pe bai'r grant ar gyfer tai cymdeithasol yn 1996 dim ond wedi tyfu ar yr un lefel â chwyddiant dylai fod yn £111 miliwn erbyn hyn, o'i gymharu â'r £93.4 miliwn yng nghyllideb Llywodraeth y Cynulliad ar gyfer flwyddyn nesaf.

Cred Ceidwadwyr Cymru fod rhaid i'r buddsoddiad mewn tai cymdeithasol ddychwelyd i'r lefelau uchel a welwyd hyd at 1997, ac, fel cam cyntaf, yr ydym wedi addo buddsoddi £16 miliwn yn ychwanegol. Byddem hefyd yn lansio adolygiad tai eang ei gwmpas, yn cynnwys awdurdodau lleol, cymdeithasau tai, benthycwyr morgeisi, y diwydiant adeiladu tai, cynrychiolwyr tenantiaid, grwpiau'r iaith Gymraeg, a mudiadau a sefydliadau ehangach yn y sectorau gwirfoddol a busnes sydd â diddordeb ym maes tai. Byddai'n ceisio gwneud y defnydd gorau posibl o fuddsoddiad cyfredol a dod o hyd i ffyrdd o gynyddu cyfanswm y buddsoddiad mewn tai fforddiadwy ar draws Cymru.

Ar y sail honno, buasem wedi cefnogi gwelliant 1 Llafur, pe na fuasai hefyd wedi ceisio dileu pwynt 2 ein cynnig ni. Mae'r ffaith ei fod yn gwrthod cyfaddef bod angen buddsoddiad cyhoeddus ychwanegol arnom mewn tai fforddiadwy, yn ogystal â phartneriaeth weithio wirioneddol yn y sector tai, yn arddangos dirmyg trahaus tuag at bopeth y bu'r sector hwnnw'n ei ddweud wrthym ers blynyddoedd.

Fel y dywed Shelter Cymru, yr ateb hirdymor yw mwy o fuddsoddiad mewn tai fforddiadwy. Ar ôl wyth mlynedd, nid yw Llywodraeth y Cynulliad byth wedi dangos unrhyw ddealltwriaeth o beth y mae partneriaeth weithio gyda'r sector tai yn ei olygu mewn gwirionedd.

Fel mudiadau sy'n ariannol aeddfed, mae cymdeithasau tai mewn sefyllfa dda i gynyddu'r cyflenwad o dai cymdeithasol ac i fynd i'r afael â'r argyfwng ledled Cymru o ran fforddiadwyedd. Mentrau cymdeithasol a busnesau cymdeithasol yw'r cymdeithasau tai—nid busnesau cyhoeddus nac ar gyfer gwneud elw. Ar hyn o bryd maent yn buddsoddi rhagor na £200 miliwn y flwyddyn yng Nghymru.

Gallai amgylchedd rheoleiddiol mwy effeithiol sy'n rhoi rhyddid i gymdeithasau tai greu mwy o dai cymdeithasol a chynyddu buddsoddiad cymunedol y tu allan i gyfyngiadau gwariant cyhoeddus eu grymuso fel entrepreneuriaid cymdeithasol er mwyn iddynt allu diwallu anghenion tai argyfyngus cymunedau ar draws Cymru yn well, gan gynhyrchu miliynau o bunnoedd o fuddsoddiad ychwanegol ac ymateb i anghenion cymunedau amrywiol ond sy'n aml yn ddifreintiedig.

Petai'r Lywodraeth ddatganoledig yn rheoleiddio llai, gallai cymdeithasau tai fenthyg mwy i fuddsoddi mewn tai a buddsoddiad cymunedol ehangach, gan ganolbwyntio ar ganlyniadau, nid prosesau, ar adeg o angen gwirioneddol. Rhaid ymestyn a moderneiddio cynlluniau perchentyaeth cost isel megis cymorth prynu. Rhaid inni geisio tenantiaeth tai cymdeithasol gyffredin a sefydlu mathau newydd o gynlluniau tai cydweithredol, yn cynnwys ehangu datblygiadau ymddiriedolaethau tir cymunedol er mwyn i brisiau tai ddod o fewn cyrraedd prynwyr tro cyntaf. Felly, byddwn yn cefnogi gwelliant 6 yn enw Kirsty Williams.

Ar y materion ehangach, mae prisiau tir yn hollbwysig o ran fforddiadwyedd, ac felly rhaid inni ganolbwyntio ar ganllawiau cynlluniau ac argaeledd tir. Rhaid i dir o'r fath ddod nid yn unig o'r sector cyhoeddus, ond hefyd o bartneriaeth gyda landlordiaid preifat. Gwn o drafodaethau gyda mudiadau yn amrywio o gymdeithas y tirfeddianwyr i'r eglwysi eu bod yn awyddus i gynorthwyo.

Mae Cymorth Cymru wedi mynegi ei bryderon am y gostyngiadau yn y cyllid ar gyfer cymorth sy'n gysylltiedig â thai; dywed ei fod eisoes yn gweld cyllid yn cael ei wasgu i'r fath raddau fel bod prosiectau'n gorfod cau, a bod ansawdd y gwasanaethau'n cael ei danseilio. Yng nghyllideb ddiweddaraf Llywodraeth y Cynulliad, gwelwyd toriad yn y cyllid ar gyfer cynlluniau tai â chymorth mewn termau real.

Y canlyniad fydd mwy o ddigartrefedd, mwy o droseddu, mwy o flocio gwelyau, mwy o blant a phobl ifanc yn methu â chyrraedd eu potensial a mwy o bobl hyn yn byw bywydau unig, ynysig a heb fod yn iach. Rhaid inni felly weithio gyda Llywodraeth y DU i ddiogelu'r cymorth sy'n gysylltiedig â thai oddi wrth y Trysorlys ac ystyried ailgyflunio'r cyllidebau datganoledig i gydnabod y cyfraniad a wneir gan gymorth sy'n gysylltiedig â thai at wasanaethau cymdeithasol ac iechyd, adfywio, addysg, dysgu gydol oes a sgiliau.

Byddwn yn gwrthwynebu gwelliannau 2, 5 a 7, sy'n ymwneud â'r hawl i brynu. Gwerthir i'r tenantiaid cyfredol, ac felly ni fyddai eiddo sy'n cael ei werthu dan y cynllun hawl i brynu ar gael i denant newydd am sawl blwyddyn, hyd yn oed pe na fyddai'n cael ei werthu. Canfu ymchwil gan Steve Wilcox, athro polisi tai ym Mhrifysgol Efrog, fod dros 60 y cant o'r holl aelwydydd a fanteisiodd ar y cynllun hawl i brynu rhwng 1980 a 1990 yn dal i fyw ynddynt heddiw. Fel y noda,

ni fydd rhoi terfyn ar y cynllun HIB mewn ardaloedd o alw mawr yn cael dim neu braidd dim effaith yn syth ar lefelau ailosod yn yr ardaloedd hynny. Yn wir, byddant yn parhau i adlewyrchu effaith hirdymor ond graddol gwerthiannau HIB dros y ddau ddegawd diwethaf. Nid yw cyfyngu ar yr HIB yn ateb sydyn.

Byddai rhoi terfyn ar y cynllun hawl i brynu dim ond yn darparu, ar gyfartaledd, eiddo newydd i'w osod ymhen 10 mlynedd neu fwy. Ond mae buddsoddi mewn anheddau newydd yn darparu tai i'w gosod o'r dyddiad y cânt eu cwblhau, ac mae'r angen yn bod heddiw. Ein cyfrifoldeb cymdeithasol ni yw sicrhau bod pob rhan o gymdeithas—unigolion, teuluoedd, grwpiau cymunedol, busnesau a'r sector cyhoeddus—yn chwarae rhan yn y gwaith o wella lles pob aelod o gymdeithas. Ein cyfrifoldeb cymdeithasol ni hefyd yw cefnogi'r cynnig hwn."

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