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Focus on housing in the draft budget

The Welsh Government’s latest draft budget features further protection for Supporting People, more money for affordable homes and reform of tax on home sales.

The details of the draft budget for 2018/19 and 2019/20 were announced by finance secretary Mark Drakeford on Tuesday following agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru over the weekend.

An extra £10m will be allocated for Supporting People in each of the next two years, maintaining funding at 2017/18 levels and there will also be an extra £10m to tackle homelessness in each of the next two years.

Capital plans over the three years to 2019/20 include the release of £340m as part of Welsh Government’s £1.4bn investment towards its commitment to build 20,000 affordable homes.

In the first budget where Wales was able to use its tax and borrowing powers, the minister also announced details of the new land transaction tax (LTT) that will replace stamp duty in Wales from April 2018.

He said the new rates would see the average first-time buyer paying no tax and buyers of homes worth up to £400,000 paying the same or less than they did before.

Professor Drakeford said:

‘The UK government’s decision to plough on with its flawed policy of austerity means we continue to face cuts to our budget. By the end of the decade, it will have been cut in real terms by 7% since 2010 – £1.2bn less to spend on vital public services.

‘On top of this, the UK government’s £3.5bn of unallocated cuts to public spending for 2019-20 continue to cast a shadow over our plans for the future – this could  mean a further cut of up to £175m to the Welsh budget depending on where the unallocated cuts fall.

‘Despite this, we have published two-year revenue plans to provide stability for public services so they can plan for the future and ambitious three-year capital proposals to build a more secure and prosperous Wales.

Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru welcomed the focus on housing and its role as a vital piece of national infrastructure. Director Matt Dicks said:

‘We are pleased to see such a commitment to boosting the supply of affordable housing in Wales underpinned by an emphasis on supporting those who are homeless and ending rough sleeping. The protection of the Supporting People budget, which provides the funding for a wide range of services provided to potentially vulnerable people and is central to the efforts in preventing homelessness is a signal to the housing profession that our voice is being heard.’

Community Housing Cymru chief executive Stuart Ropke said:

‘This is a good budget for housing with £340m to fund new, affordable homes. Protection of the Supporting People programme means that housing associations can continue their important work changing lives by providing support to those fleeing domestic abuse, suffering from mental illness and experiencing homelessness.’

He added that, with health spending approaching half of the total budget, housing associations are ready to work with the NHS and local government to improve health and keep people out of hospital and in their homes for longer.

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