Council houses built in Wales for first time in decades

media captionOne Swansea council house resident said she would only leave "in a coffin"

Council houses are being built in parts of Wales for the first time in decades in response to a shortage of affordable housing.

The Welsh Government wants councils to take advantage of new rules allowing them to borrow more money.

But Cardiff council said it could raise more cash if the Welsh Government allowed it to increase people's rent.

More than 8,000 council homes were completed in 1976, compared to an annual average of 15 since 2000.

Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Anglesey, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Powys, Pembrokeshire, Swansea and Vale of Glamorgan councils are among those now building their own homes again.

Even with hundreds of homes being built or bought in some counties, the numbers are way below the huge council-house building programmes of the 1970s.

Housing charity Shelter said 66,386 households were on waiting lists in Wales, according to 2018 figures.

Councils have been able to borrow more to build homes since April after Prime Minister Theresa May removed a cap on borrowing limits.

But a Welsh Government cap stops them putting up rents quicker than inflation.

Cardiff council wants to build 1,000 council homes by 2022 and a total of 2,000.

Housing chief Lynda Thorne said: "Clearly we need to make sure we are providing affordable homes. There's no point building council homes then the rent's too high and people can't afford them."

Council houses built in Wales. 1974 - 2018.  .

Labour housing minister Julie James said a review, due to report in the summer, would look at rents.

"We want rents that are affordable for people. We don't want to push people into housing poverty," she said.

She also defended a decision to scrap the right to buy, introduced in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, which Conservatives said transformed the lives of thousands of families.

"I can show you lots of places in Wales where houses that used to be social housing - well maintained and developed - are now private rented housing, very poorly maintained and with higher rents than in the social sector," she said.

image captionJulie James has called on councils to build now the borrowing cap had been scrapped

The Welsh Government wants private companies, councils and housing associations to build 20,000 affordable homes by 2021.

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru's housing spokeswoman, said: "It isn't enough. They need to seriously ramp up those targets, seriously ramp up what's being built."

Her party said that number of homes should be built by councils and housing associations alone, paid for with borrowed money.

A history of council housing

By Daniel Davies, BBC Wales political correspondent

image copyrightPA
image captionLloyd George promised to make Britain a country fit for heroes after the First World War

It is 100 years since the creation of the council house. Local authorities had to meet the need for housing under the 1919 Addison Act, named after Liberal minister Christopher Addison.

It was part of Lloyd George's promise to make Britain a country fit for heroes after World War One.

Standards were set for the type, size and quality of houses and money was made available and councils were able to borrow at favourable rates.

The Townhill Estate in Swansea is one example of the homes built thanks to the act, but it ended prematurely due to a weakening economy and spending cuts and far fewer homes were built than promised.

Addison quit the government when his building programme was axed and went on to join the Labour Party.

It was not until the 1930s that the government told councils to clear out the slums and replace them with new homes.

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