We are making headway on the significant problem of affordable homes for local people.

A recent study by the Resolution Foundation made grim reading and described UK housing overall as ‘more cramped, and less conveniently located for jobs, than in many comparable countries. Adding insult to injury, the UK’s housing stock is also the oldest in Europe (four-in-ten homes were built before 1946), and one of the most poorly insulated as a result.’

I wish that Monmouthshire was an exception to this but actually good, affordable homes for local people is a major challenge. That is not to say that there are not many excellent homes, in good repair, in our county. But many people who would like to work and live here find house prices and rents unaffordable. And even for those who have homes, huge energy costs and price inflation are a cause of worry.

One way we are helping with is a new independent energy efficiency advice scheme which we have launched with the Severn Wye Energy Agency, a charity working in Welsh and English border counties towards using natural resources sustainably. Our scheme will help homeowners by triggering funding for improvements and sourcing interest free loans for repairs, insulation and other work. The scheme provides independent, expert advice and grants to help improve energy efficiency and cut bills.

Our new Local Development Plan has also reached its next stage, with confirmation that our plans are achievable. Future developments in Monmouthshire will be net-zero-carbon; include walking and cycling routes; and at least half of the new homes will have low rents or be less costly to buy. We are also working with housing associations, recently selling land to Monmouthshire Housing for a development in Caldicot where all the new homes will always have low-cost rents.

Unfortunately, there are many people in Monmouthshire finding themselves homeless, and being priced out of the private rented sector, often because the UK government has failed to raise benefits in line with realistic rents. So, we are increasing the amount of temporary housing through leasing and purchasing homes, with the aim of reducing the use and cost of bed & breakfast accommodation. I am particularly anxious to ensure that we can offer families with children a proper home, so we are targeting empty properties, and offering attractive packages to existing landlords. (If you know of an empty home in your area you might let our Housing Options team know.)

Like in almost everything, there is no silver bullet, but we are making real progress.