How bad is Wales' housing problem and what's being done about it?

The Welsh Government has unveiled what it calls "ambitious plans" to address the rising demand for housing and the climate crisis by pledging to build thousands of affordable green homes.

Here we explain some of the challenges Wales faces when it comes to sustainable housing and look at what the Welsh Government is planning to do about it.

What is the scale of Wales' housing problem?

One in three people in Wales are living in unsafe or unaffordable housing, according to a report released by charity Shelter Cymru.

Their report found some families are being forced to choose between paying rent, or mortgage payments, and buying food.

It also identified more than 1 in 4 of us - around 819,000 people - are living in homes with significant damp, mould or condensation problems.

Credit: PA

This is at a time when the housing market has seen 'unprecedented' demand.

Estate agents are reporting houses exchanging within 48 hours of offers being made and prices have risen by more than 13% since June 2020 - the highest rise in 16 years.

Campaigners are also warning some communities face being "swept away" by a huge increase in second home ownership.

Local people face being priced out of rural communities by the growing demand for second homes and a sharp rise in house prices.

How does the Welsh Government plan to fix Wales housing problem?

The Welsh Government is set to double the amount of money it spends on social housing to build 20,000 low carbon homes.

It has committed to spending £250m during 2021/22 in response to the ever rising demand for affordable housing in Wales and the climate crisis.

The homes will be built to new quality and environmental standards with the aim for some of the houses to produce more energy than they use.

While visiting Rhiw Cefn Gwlad in Bridgend - one of Wales’ first ‘positive energy’ social housing schemes - Climate Change Minister Julie James said the investment was the right one for "future generations."

She said: “We have doubled our money - committing a quarter of a billion pounds this financial year, so we can get on and build 20,000 new low carbon homes for rent.

“This goes beyond Welsh housing need estimates.

“We are building at scale to address the supply and demand imbalance, homelessness, the growing second homes crisis, and the climate emergency. We are building high quality homes to make a difference to people’s quality of living. And we are ensuring the decisions we make today are the right ones for our future generations.”

The Welsh Government previously said higher taxes on second homes, government house purchases schemes and new planning laws could be introduced to "inject fairness back into the housing system".

They want second homeowners to make a "fair" contribution to communities in the form of national and local taxes.

The government is expected to announce details of a pilot project over the summer before considering a wider rollout.

Can Wales build its way out of the "housing emergency"?

Charity Siarter Cartrefi has warned Wales "can't just build our way out this crisis" and has criticised the Welsh Government for its record on housing.

The charity said: "We are calling for a fundamental rethink of policy to prioritise social, cultural, and economic needs in line with Cymraeg 2050 and the Well-being of Future Generations Act.”

They have warned communities and culture in Wales could be destroyed by an "out of control housing market."

The charity Care & Repair Cymru say they are particularly concerned about poor, cold housing conditions experienced by older people on low incomes living in some of Wales' oldest housing stock.

"We would like to see clear housing standards set in the owner occupied sector", Chris Jones, Chief Executive of Care and Repair Cymru told ITV Wales, "and targeted improvement and retrofit programmes for low income homeowners to compliment new build low carbon homes in the social housing sector".

Julie James MS defended the Welsh Government's plans as being about more than building new houses.

She said: "We need to build somewhere between three and six thousand [houses] a year over the next five years to make sure people currently in temporary accommodation can get into happy healthy long term homes

"We need to do a lot of work in the private rental sector to get those houses up to quality, we need to do a lot of optimised retro-fit and we've been running the Welsh Quality Housing Standard for the last several years."

What is it like to live in a low-carbon home?

The houses at Rhiw Cefn Gwlad boast some of the latest innovations in renewable energy, from exhaust air heat pumps integrated with mechanical ventilation, to large solar photovoltaic roof systems coupled with a Tesla battery system.

Allyn King, his wife Anne-Marie and their three children, moved into a 4-bed house at Rhiw Cefn Glwad in January 2021.

Credit: Welsh Government

Allyn said his energy payments have fallen dramatically.

He said: "The house is amazing. In our old house we were spending around £250 on electricity and gas for heating, washing and drying. Now we are paying £19.33 a month direct debit on our electricity. We have built up more than £250 in credit during the summer which will be really helpful going into the winter.

“The battery is fantastic, it stores the electricity from the roof for when we need it. I also have an app on my phone so that I can control the heating and hot water when I am away from home to save even more energy.

“The extra money we are saving in our household has allowed us to spend more on healthy, fresh food and save for our children’s school uniforms and special occasions.”