13 September 2012
The WLGA has today welcomed a report on the improving quality of social housing in Wales, whilst calling for urgent reform of how the improvement of council homes will be funded in the future.
The report, published by the National Assembly for Wales’ Public Accounts Committee, outlines the progress being made on delivering the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).
Launched in 2002 by the Welsh Government, the WHQS sets a minimum standard for social landlords to improve the quality of social housing in Wales by targeting areas like the provision of modern kitchens and bathrooms, effective and efficient heating systems, levels of safety and security as well as the general state of housing repair.
Councillor Dyfed Edwards (Gwynedd), WLGA spokesperson for Housing said:
“Social housing currently provides around 16% of homes in Wales, and accommodates some of Wales’ most vulnerable households. While the report concludes that the initial setting of the WHQS by the Welsh Government failed to appreciate the scale of improvements required, and set overly ambitious delivery targets as a result, the fact that many households have already seen substantial improvement is very welcome news. With 60% of social housing due to reach the new quality standard by March 2013, and 79% by March 2017, local government and housing associations are making solid progress. However, further work is needed to ensure that social housing tenants in all parts of Wales live in homes that meet WHQS.”
While some local authorities have been able to use their existing resources to deliver significant improvements to tenants’ homes and, following tenant ballots, 11 local authorities have transferred their housing stock to newly formed housing associations, a number of councils still face major challenges in delivering full compliance with the WHQ standard.
Many of the difficulties that local authorities face in relation to achieving the WHQS result from the financing arrangements for council housing in Wales, which involves £73million of Welsh council tenants’ rent being paid each year to the UK Government.
The WLGA has been calling for reform of this damaging financing arrangement for some time, and for local authorities in Wales to be given the same freedom as councils in England, who are free to invest all of their tenant’s rents in improvement works.
Councillor Dyfed Edwards added:
“We welcome the findings of the report and fully support the recommendation that the Welsh Government should set out a clear timetable for its negotiations with HM Treasury on reforming the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) system in Wales.
“Under current arrangements, local authorities in Wales with social housing stock pay £73million annually into the UK Treasury. This is diverting a huge amount of rental income away from local councils and significantly limits their ability to invest in their social housing stock. The HRA system has already been dismantled in England, and we are concerned that without urgent reform Wales will be the only country still bound to the existing system. In the current economic climate any failure to revise current arrangements will inevitably limit the ability of councils to make the significant investment required to fully improve tenants’ homes.”
For more information contact: Stuart Hodges