Social Housing: Calls for 'deliverable plan' as Welsh Government unveils blueprint

Wales will see its biggest change to social housing in more than 20 years under plans announced by the Welsh Government on Tuesday.

The Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS), which updates the original standard set out in 2002, places a particular focus on making sure houses meet net zero targets.

Announcing the update, Climate Change Minister Julie James said it was designed to "better reflect changes in the way people live, work and feel about their homes."

Ms James added: “This is a bold and progressive standard that sets ambitious targets to make a difference to the overall quality of people’s lives, raises the bar for social housing and reflects the voice of tenants in Wales.

It is hoped the new plans will save tenants money on bills. Credit: ITV Wales

“The Standard will address decarbonisation in the social housing stock, ensure that homes are of a higher quality, affordable to heat and fit for the 21st century and beyond."

The Welsh Government aims to cut emissions by a third by 2030, with a target of becoming net zero by 2050.

Ms James said: “It is vital that we continue to lead the way in decarbonisation of housing and learn how to upgrade social housing effectively and efficiently," adding it is also hoped the latest steps will reduce bills for tenants.

WHQS sets higher standards for social landlords to meet.

Amongst other changes, it means tighter regulations around issues such as damp and mould, as well as ensuring the safety of buildings.

There will also be higher standards when tenants change houses, with things like "suitable floor coverings" in place when they move into a house.

The climate change minister also said lessons learnt from upgrading Wales' 230,000 social houses will be used to "tackle decarbonising" the 1.2 million privately owned homes across the country.

The minister acknowledged implementing the changes would be a challenge.

She said: “It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge of upgrading social housing. 

 “We have done it before, and together we can do it again. 

 “We need to be pragmatic, rise to the challenge – Welsh tenants are counting on us.”

Responding to the announcement, Community Housing Cymru CEO Stuart Ropke said he welcomes the Welsh Government's "ambition to further improve the quality of social homes for tenants, especially around decarbonisation."

However, he added "long-term funding certainty and a deliverable plan" is needed.

Mr Ropke said while "the immense task for not-for-profit housing associations should not be underestimated," Community Housing Cymru welcomed the Welsh Government's "commitment to work closely with the sector towards implementation."

"It is vital that we are able to identify funding, policy solutions and a reporting approach that not only ensures the standard is deliverable, but also allows vital tenant services to continue, along with development of the new social homes that our country badly needs," he added.

The Welsh Conservatives Shadow Housing Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, said: “We welcome the new Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS), yet it must be made clear what lessons were learned from the previous scheme.

“With issues raised that the previous Welsh Government Housing Quality Standard was actually hindering authorities from reducing housing waiting lists and evidence of homes being left empty as housing associations drag their feet in bringing them up to standard, which can lead to months of delays.

"The Welsh Government needs to work with social housing providers to ensure that the new standard doesn’t become yet another barrier to homes being provided.

“I can only hope that these issues will not continue to occur now that the WHQS has been updated.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...