Nov 172015
 

REMEMBERING BUDDY HOLLY

Back in January I posted a piece, Let’s Be Honest About Housing Associations, that began in nostalgic-humorous mood before going on to make more serious points about the provision of rented accommodation. The fundamental point I tried to make was that up until about a century ago rented accommodation was provided by the private sector, employers, charities and other bodies, not by local authorities or any other social housing provider. I asked, in view of changes taking place in the housing market, whether we could now be moving back towards that situation, how it might be done, and what benefits it might offer.

In my January piece I made a number of points about the changing nature of housing provision in Wales and, especially, how the proportion of people living in the private rented sector (PRS) was growing, almost unnoticed and, certainly in Wales, unplanned. I used the table below to show the dwelling stock percentages in the four categories: local authority, registered social landlord (RSL), owner-occupier and PRS.

Houses by tenure

I am now able to follow up that January piece thanks to a regular source who has drawn my attention to a recently published report examining the advantages of giving a greater role to the PRS in the provision of social and rented housing. The report is produced by the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) and is entitled The Potential Role of the Private Rented Sector in Wales. I advise you to open the report in another window or browser in order to follow the points I shall pick up on later in this article. But before that, let’s take a fresh look at the RSL sector, using information not previously available to me.

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WAY OUT WEST

For much of this new information I am indebted to another contact who has looked into the workings of the RSL sector in Ceredigion, an investigation that has unearthed a number of disturbing issues, prompting him to submit important questions to the ‘Welsh’ Government. Unsurprisingly, the civil servants acting as the ‘Welsh’ Government refuse to answer his questions, so he has now taken the matter to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales.

Alas, the PSOW is Nick Bennett, former head of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella body for housing associations, so I have warned my contact not to expect any help from that quarter. (Bennett’s appointment was a pre-Sophie Howe illustration of how incestuous and corrupt public life is in modern Wales.)

One of the facts unearthed is something called Dowry Gap funding, paid to certain housing associations for them to use in upgrading the housing stock they’ve inherited from councils under voluntary transfer (i.e. through a vote by tenants). This funding is currently being paid to ten housing associations and in 2015 – 16 the total cost will be £43.8m. Tai Ceredigion Cyf’s ‘Dowry’ will be paid at the rate of £1.6m a year for 30 years. If this 30-year term applies to the other, larger housing associations, then the total cost will be £1.3bn.

This Dowry Gap funding seems to complement the Welsh Housing Quality Standard legislation, which demanded that all RSL properties be up to WHQS standard by 2012. This deadline – and its funding of £108m a year – has now been extended to 2020. Introduced in 2004 and running to 2020, £108m a year totals up to £1.7bn.

Adding the two we get a total figure of £3bn for ‘improvements’. Seeing as Wales has 143,790 RSL properties, this works out at almost £21,000 per property! (Is this right? Will somebody please check the figures.) That is a lot of moolah for windows and doors, especially when we accept that many of the dwellings inherited from local authorities were in good condition, certainly not needing ‘refurbishment’ to the tune of 21 grand per property.

Then there seem to be two funding streams for capital projects, i.e. new-build housing, the Social Housing Grant and the Housing Finance Grant. I knew about the first, and I submitted an FoI last year to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how much had been dished out under the SHG. I used the answers to compile the table below (click to enlarge). It shows that the figure for the six years 2008 – 2013 is £692.5m. (The explanation for the declining amount paid out in SHG can be found below in other, newer funding streams.)

Social Housing Grant 1

But at that stage I knew little about the Housing Finance Grant. Now I know a little more.

Even though I’m a regular and consistent critic of housing associations one feature of their operations that I have always regarded as commendable is that they raise funding from banks and other commercial lenders. Which means they are not entirely reliant on the public purse. Well, that’s what I thought; the reality is very different, as I learnt from my enquiries into the Housing Finance Grant.

The system works thus: Yes, housing associations find commercial lenders prepared to give them large loans – but then the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me! – repay those loans over 30 years to the lenders, M&G Investments and Affordable Housing Finance, the latter being funding guaranteed by the UK Department for Communities and Local Government.

(And as the DCLG website puts it, “Borrowers will need to be Registered Providers (or equivalent in the devolved administrations) and classified to the private sector”. Which suggests that housing associations are not public bodies. Or maybe they are, in which case why is a Conservative government putting so much money into public bodies in order for them to build up valuable assets . . . unless they are being fattened up for full privatisation?)

Housing Finance Grant clip

The system of repaying lenders also applies to the ‘Dowry Gap’; housing associations take out loans, paid in lump sums, and the ‘Welsh’ Government repays those loans over 30 years. This explains why Tai Ceredigion has now completed its programme of upgrading its properties but will continue to receive the ‘Dowry Gap’ funding every year. The money is repaying Tai Ceredigion’s loan, which seems to be itemised in the latest financial statement at £23m.

It is even suggested that ‘Dowry Gap’ and WHQS funding is being used – improperly – for capital projects, but financial oversight of housing associations by the ‘Welsh’ Government is so lax that there’s no way of proving or disproving this claim.

All of which means that housing associations, despite the flim-flam about ‘new ways of doing things’ are old-fashioned Statist creations, entirely dependent on the public purse, which explains why they are favourites of the anti-business parties, Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Their only assets, their only other source of income, is of course their housing stock – either inherited from local authorities or built with public funding. So, again, at no cost to them. It’s a ‘new way of doing things’ only in the sense that it’s more opaque than straightforward dollops of public funding.

Seeing as housing associations are entirely dependent on the public purse it’s worth asking, again, why they are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act? Maybe the duplicitous and very expensive way they’re funded provides the answer.

Another point, one that I have raised before – dealt with in my January post, and also here – is the scandalous amount of this public funding that our ‘Welsh’ housing associations spend over the border. In the case of Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd it was the insanity of giving its total maintenance contract to English firm Lovell which, from its Cheshire base, recruited its sub-contractors exclusively from north west England.

I’m sure Tai Ceredigion uses local firms to do its work, but I still question why a firm operating on Cardigan Bay should have external auditors based in Birmingham (Mazars LLP) and internal auditors in Hampshire (TIAA Ltd). Both may have offices in Cardiff, but neither is a Welsh company. There are genuine Welsh companies closer to and even in Ceredigion that could and should be doing this work that is paid for with Welsh public funding.

Tai Ceredigion auditors

‘Welsh’ Government funding should carry the stipulation that as much as possible of that funding remains in Wales. This can only be achieved if the funding reaches genuinely Welsh firms, not outside firms with an office in Wales funnelling profits back to HQ, or those seeking to capitalise on the public funding bonanza with a hastily set up ‘Welsh branch’ that is little more than a post-box and a telephone number.

Of course, it would be easy to argue that none of this really matters because all the funding comes, in one form or another, from London. But only part of the Housing Finance Grant comes directly from London, the rest is raised commercially, and the other funding streams – Social Housing Grant, Welsh Housing Quality Standard and ‘Dowry Gap’ funding – seem to be ‘Welsh’ Government initiatives.

Which is worrying, because it gives us a situation in many parts of Wales, perhaps especially in rural areas, where housing associations are on a treadmill of growth and expansion fuelled by this funding – yet there is often little or no local demand for more social housing.

Housing associations are perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the Third Sector, the shadow world that those buffoons down Cardiff docks want us to believe is an economy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors, all underpinned by public funding. And all unnecessary. As I shall now explain by delving a little more into the Public Policy Institute for Wales report I mentioned earlier.

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‘THE POTENTIAL OF THE PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR IN WALES’

Before diving into the report it might be worth just pausing to see what kind of an organisation the Institute is. It was formed in January last year to “provide the Welsh Government with authoritative independent analysis and advice.” If you look through the names to be found in ‘The Team’, ‘The Board of Governors’, and the ‘Executive Group’, you get the impression that the PPIW is very much a cross-border outfit, containing – on the Board of Governors – people who know Wales such as Gerry Holtham, along with people, such as Will Hutton, who may be very clever and a Newsnight regular but know little about our country. ‘The Team‘, presumably those running the PPIW day-to-day, is disappointingly top-heavy, to the point of capsizing, with apparatchiks and people from the Third Sector.

The Executive Group “is made up of representatives from the organisations that formed part of the consortium that collaborated in the development of the PPIW”. These are ‘our’ universities (including Liverpool but not Glyndŵr!) and Victoria Winkler of ‘Welsh’ Labour’s very own think-tank, the Bevan Foundation.

The report set out to answer three questions, found below.

PPIW report aims

Some Report Findings

The PPIW report confirms that the PRS is growing in every single local authority area, though predictably, Cardiff, with its vast student population and other young singles, outstrips all other areas. In fact, the report tells us that in Cardiff, “owner occupation has actually fallen compared to renting in both absolute and proportional terms”. Table 6 shows that 22.1% of Cardiff’s dwellings are privately rented. The next highest local authority area is Ceredigion with 17.5%, and then in third place comes Denbighshire with 16.5%.

PRS changes

The figures for both Cardiff and Ceredigion are influenced by the student presence while the ‘Rhyl factor’ explains the Denbighshire figure, correlated in Table 1, which tells us that Sir Dinbych lost 870 private households between 2001 and 2011 while the same period saw an increase of 1,468 in the PRS. Other areas saw a decline in the number of private households but nowhere was the fall as dramatic as in Denbighshire.

Staying with Table 6, in percentage and absolute terms Carmarthenshire saw the highest increase in private households due mainly to the saturation housing strategy devised by the Planning Inspectorate and eagerly implemented by those running the council. The same designed-to-attract-English-buyers process can also be observed at work in Powys. (N.B. A ‘household’ can be a person living alone or a family of 10.)

Table 9 tells us that rents in the PRS are always higher than the RSL sector though this varies from area to area. In Blaenau Gwent the average social rent is £61.68 per week, or 89% of the PRS, whereas in Wrecsam, Swansea and Cardiff the percentage drops to 67%, though the average PRS rent in Wrecsam is lower than the two southern cities.

Poor PRS

Of course there is a downside to this unplanned and largely unchecked growth in the PRS, especially in decaying coastal towns like Rhyl, and areas of our cities taken over by students. That downside is the breakdown of community life and an increase in various forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour.

It could even be argued that there is a case to be made for paying compensation to long-term residents of such neighbourhoods. Compensation to be paid by the ‘Welsh’ Government or the local authority, whoever was responsible for not guarding against such decline or refusing to implement the legislation that could have prevented it.

A Better Way

Happily, the report also makes clear that there are alternatives to endlessly pumping public money into secretive, unaccountable and amateurishly run housing associations, or otherwise allowing the growth of ghettoes of cross-border criminals and misfits housed by slum landlords. To avoid these outcomes the report draws our attention to institutional investment such as pension funds to provide rented and other property, coupled with more imaginative and varied housing options.

In the Appendix the report’s authors look at three examples in the south where the ‘Welsh’ Government is in partnership with the Principality Building Society in a venture called Tai Tirion (or Tirion Group Ltd, Co. No. 08891823) to build over a thousand new homes on brownfield sites in Cardiff, Newport and the Rhondda. Though that said, there is not a lot of progress being made. Not really surprising, seeing as the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved . . .

I say that not out of malice, it’s just the way things are. Institutional investors such as pension funds are viewed with suspicion by Statist ‘Welsh’ Labour. As the report puts it – refer to ‘three questions’ panel above – “the Minister confirmed that the emphasis of the project should be concentrated mainly on (i) and (ii)”.

PRS minister response

To remind you . . . Question iii reads, ‘If the PRS is to be a long term tenure of choice, whether it is likely to be possible to interest institutional money and professional management in the market (i.e. what are the barriers to large scale investment?).’

On reading that you can almost imagine a ‘Welsh’ Labour politician or apparatchik having an involuntary evacuation of the bowels . . . “‘institutional money’! . . . ‘professional management’! . . . people who might understand business! . . . what about our friends in the Third Sector, how are they to sustain their muesli-weaving, skinny latte lifestyles? . . . oh, no, we can’t have that!

So the ‘Welsh’ Government prefers to let the private rental sector grow in a reckless and uncontrolled manner through the activities of Buy to Let ‘investors’ and people who buy dilapidated hotels in Colwyn Bay to house Scouse junkies.

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CONCLUSION

It is surely obvious that if housing associations are the answer, then the question must have been, ‘What is the most expensive (to the public purse) and least efficient way of delivering rented social housing?’ In the hope of disguising this monumental error we are now encumbered with secretive, unaccountable money pits.

Which would be bad enough if they were at least spending the money on housing Welsh people, but due to the Englandandwales allocation system into which our housing associations are locked a Welsh family is all too likely to discover that the Family from Hell has been given the house next door . . . ‘Hell’ in this case will be Birmingham, or Stoke-on-Trent, or Sheffield, or . . .

Consequently, there is no justification for pouring any more money into housing associations. Especially given that the Conservative government in London is almost certainly planning to do away with them. Or does the ‘Welsh’ Government think this is a devolved matter? Maybe it is, but that won’t count for anything if Westminster forces change through by cutting the block grant. And further undermines the sector with selected benefit cuts.

So my advice to the ‘Welsh’ Government is this: realise that housing associations are an expensive failure. Then, get ahead of the curve by taking control of the social rented sector nationally and looking for the kind of investors mentioned in the Public Policy Institute for Wales report, pension funds and others looking for the kinds of large-scale investments that individual housing associations and single sites cannot provide.

To take advantage of this private funding, and to save the public purse a hell of a lot of money, you, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, need to put aside your congenital hostility to business and real money and, for a change, prioritise the best interests of the Welsh people. It’s what you were elected to do – remember?

END

  65 Responses to “Housing Associations – The Great Deception”

  1.  

    There is, always has been and always will be only one form of social housing that is efficient (or more efficient than anything else anyway) – council housing.

    Then there is the impact of housing benefit. I don’t know about Wales specifically, but across Englandandwales most of the claimants are in work and living in private rented. Then there is the hidden element of tax credits which containa housing element (and at thos point you should remember that tax credits is essentially a state benefit for the low paid, yet claimants have mortages, buy new cars and holiday abroad) – and as a union rep I have dealt with literally dozens of people who wanted to drop their working hours to the minimum because tax credits would top it up to equal or in some cases higher incomes than they were currently on. Indeed, my employer of the time no longer hires full time workers – their attitude is bollocks to it, tax credits can pick it up. And then theres child care vouchers.

    Economically insane age we live in.

    •  

      You have captured part of the problem very well – that many employers, particularly those using a high proportion of lower skilled, have been subsidised for years by succession of Westminster regimes. That’s why Blair /Brown were so popular with big business for so long. Minimum wage combined with tax credits + other benefits were a major structural blockage when trying to get people to advance themselves. They would do their own individual “sum” and quickly work out that the gain was marginal or negative. Labour, then Tories, quickly created a demotivated passive, highly dependent labour force. Transition from unemployed to employed was often blighted in the same way. Even worse the business community here in Wales ( not 3rd sector, but real business ! ) is also inhibited by its dependency on grants & government contracts. Evidence of real enterprise is quite weak and genuine aspirations are often frustrated by a government that imports competition by handing out grants and free issue deals ( like rates, low rents etc ) to here today-gone next week operators.

      I’m all for government intervention at the lower end where there are cases of real need, and plenty of those still go unheeded, but it is now evident that the wholesale busybody interference has “enslaved” people in a way unimagined even 25 years ago.

    •  

      When we look at the mess we’re in now with social housing leaving it to the councils looks very attractive. Yes, there was favouritism, but they employed a lot of local people and they weren’t shipping in English criminals and riff-raff.

  2.  

    The Labour Party was not elected to government in Cardiff to serve the people of Wales, it was elected to serve the interests of the UK Labour Party.

    It’s ability to operate independently of diktat from HQ in London is restricted, so I believe, to matters devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

    It is not therefore, in reality, the Welsh Labour Party, it is better described as the Labour Party in Wales.

    In an article in The New Statesman (Aug 2015) Carwyn Jones said “In the coming months and years we will want more freedom to develop our own Welsh Labour identity”

    Rather than being the great vision for the future, as Carwyn seems to think, this was an open acknowledgement that it has been, and continues to be, under the thumb of its English HQ.

  3.  

    Well done Jac. Excellent bit of investigative journalism. Conclusion, spot on.

  4.  

    earlier this year you wrote extensively about the rented property sector(s) and much of what you wrote was either supported, or added to, by various correspondents. Few, if any, chose to confront you with more facts or alternative analysis. Yet those in power/authority remain dumb silent, despite having have access to this data, and even more, .

    I took a speculative call the other day from an aspiring local Conservative Assembly candidate, and I elected to humour him ( or maybe humour myself ! ). Among other subjects, I raised this matter of importation of dysfunctional units from England by H.A’s etc, and some movement of similar units within Wales typically from the cities to less densely populated areas. The guy did not have a clue what I was talking about, so I advised him to bone up on the subject as it was of some importance and relevance if his party has genuine aspirations of governing our little crock of shit post 2016.

    Some months ago there was also press coverage of internal “difficulties” within Cantref, which has a strong presence in areas that were formerly strongholds of Welsh culture/identity. Allegedly financially robust, this businees was said to be riddled with internal bullying and poor customer service. There were indications that there was a financial storm ahead as some of their locations were not enjoying “demand” – so why build/buy the f***in’ things if there was no market ? or was this a smokescreen before a follow up decision to fetch in yet more of those dysfunctionals on a 1 way ticket out of an English metropolis ? I have not heard any more about this particular association despite expensive external consultants being commissioned to do an in-depth “investigation”. By now someone should be releasing a statement of sorts, or are they working on the basis that if they keep a low profile it will all be forgotten ?.

    •  

      There is cut-throat competition between our housing associations. They’re looking over their shoulders fearful of a funding cut, or being taken over by a bigger rival. This explains why they’re out of control, building properties that aren’t locally needed to house low lifes shipped in from England. It’s kind of blind panic.

    •  

      There have been several mentions of Cantref in the press over the years.

      In August 2015 an article appeared in the Camarthenshire Herald.

      http://www.carmarthenshireherald.com/6211/welsh-government-investigates-cantref/

      Apparently the investigation is being carried out by consultancy Campbell Tickell (address in Middlesex) and there is no clear timescale at this stage for its completion.

      In 2014 it was reported that the Welsh Language Commissioner may investigate failure to implement a language scheme

      Back in 2008 the Wales Audit Office found Cymdeithas Tai Cantref was providing services ‘that were less than satisfactory in six out of the eight areas’.

  5.  

    Another interesting article, you’re on a roll, keeping eating your Weetabix.

    The other reason Housing Associations are in vogue with the Welsh Government is because they’re providing services to tenants, skills training and basic qualifications, financial advice, work experience etc, in short gobbling up more third sector spending at the expense other groups. Another point the opposition parties and media seem unwilling or incapable of exposing.

    I also noticed the report was published in September 2015, but only made its way into the public arena earlier this month (November), a sign of how well it’s findings are going down in Cardiff Bay perhaps. And while the Minister gets credit for commissioning it, I’m left wondering what was taken out before it was put up PPIW website?

    The PPIW was set up to provide an evidence base for queries the Welsh Government has on policy matters, but to date very few of its recommendations in whole raft area have been implemented, and without more interest and exposure this Housing Report will end up in the same boat. All of which poses the question is PPIW another case of jobs for the boys?

    Out of interest has there been any political reaction to the report findings or don’t the other parties comment on Welsh Government policy anymore?

    •  

      When it comes to the other parties, Plaid Cymru is unquestioningly supportive of housing associations, even when they import English undesirables and, as in Gwynedd, undermine Welsh-speaking communities. This is another example of Plaid’s
      socialism trumping any Welsh considerations. The Lib Dems I suspect are more concerned with surviving next May’s elections than worrying about anything else. The Tories probably don’t understand how housing associations operate or the funding they swallow up.

      •  

        I begin to wonder whether the Tories are scheming, plotting away quietly aiming to privatise ( in the proper sense, or improper depending on your view of these things ! ) shipping them off to the custody of their seriously rich & institutional friends.

        Given that many H.A’s are out of their depth in debt, a change in policy regarding servicing that debt would suffice to place these bodies into solvency/liquidity difficulties. Add to the mix the demonstrated management competence issues and we see that few if any H.A’s in Wales would be able to fend for themselves. So they are public sector, pretending to be private and ripe for the taking if & when the Tories decide to palm them off.

        •  

          As you say, housing associations are very vulnerable. I cannot see them lasting much longer in their current form. Nor can I see the survival of a very amateurish third sector social housing model, costing the state untold billions, when there are private investors waiting to step in.

  6.  

    Decline in the number of Council properties – Housing stock depleted by ‘Right to Buy’ with money raised not staying with Councils. Little to no new builds as a result of lack of money. Overall cuts to Council budgets imposed by Westminster.

    Increase in the number of Housing Association tenancies – HAs able to borrow money without adding to the PSBR. Tenants not able to purchase using ‘Right to Buy’.

    Increase in the number of tenancies issued by private landlords – Buy 2 Let. Private landlords scooping up ex-Council properties sold after former tenant / owner-occupier dies.

    Rent Controls?
    Most people want rent controls.
    Little enthusiasm for them from main political parties.
    Private landlords don’t want them and are quite happy for successive governments to provide tenants on low incomes with Housing Benefit etc.

    •  

      I can’t argue with any of that. Which I find rather worrying.

    •  

      “…..Private landlords don’t want them and are quite happy for successive governments to provide tenants on low incomes with Housing Benefit etc.” …… Spot on.

      Bit remeniscent of the old “cost-plus” contracts back in 70’s when government made index linked incraments to payments for all sorts of services. Today, allegedly, there is little or no inflation yet landlords hike up rents knowing full well that the dumb ass at Benefits will shell out the increases.

  7.  

    As if on cue…..this morning on Radio Cymru Sioned Hughes (Director of Policy at Cartrefi Cymunedol Cymru) talked about how much Housing Associations were contributing to the economy. A lot of figures thrown around byt the BBC presenter and Sioned eg Contributes £1 billion to the Welsh economy…..although no timescale is given. Safeguards 20,000 job. Although we later learn this is 9,000 ‘directly’ as corrected by Sioned. 2,000 houses built and a quarter of them without any grant at all. They only received a £58 million grant. Yet they spend £500 million annually on renovation and £7 million on training. They are independent. The sector is very important and supports the communities they serve. Research carried out by the ‘Uned ymchwil i economi Cymru’ on behalf of Cartrefi Cymunedol Cymru (WHA’s Cymru). The point of the research was to show how much they contributed towards their communities economically.

    I was left wondering what the hell that short 2 minute interview as about? Oh yes…..Sioned is about to jump ship and become Chief Exec of the Urdd……in January.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06nxtkl#play

    •  

      Housing associations have received billions. They have almost certainly received more in public funding than they put into the Welsh economy because a lot of what they receive ends up over the border.

      And as an earlier comment put it, “The other reason Housing Associations are in vogue with the Welsh Government is because they’re providing services to tenants, skills training and basic qualifications, financial advice, work experience etc, in short gobbling up more third sector spending at the expense other groups.”

  8.  

    Oh yes….she talks at 57 minutes in just before 7 am.

  9.  

    Jac,
    Why don’t you precis your points about “Dowry funding ; social housing costs ” etc etc and send as one letter to 20 leading Welsh newspapers? Many papers would publish such a letter. It is only by getting into local papers , will the people of Wales learn about this opaque , WASTEFUL public funding….and the immense cost of housing association projects.
    Very few people view internet sites, compared to newspapers.

    I watch “Homes Under the Hammer” and am often amazed how CHEAPLY private entrepreneurs can improve houses, even in the South of England , where you’d expect building labour costs to be much higher.
    House buyers on the programme often do an immense amount of work for a “£10000 budget spent over 6 weeks” or “£6000 spent over a month ” [examples] !!

    Just watch the prog to see what I mean.
    It seems that Welsh housing associations are often FIDDLING huge amounts of public money !!
    That’s how it LOOKS !
    Some of these community Housing Projects are costing VAST sums !!

    •  

      You are homing in on a fundemental point that us brainwashed Welsh ( and other parts of the UK ) seem wedded to – that provision of housing is in some way “better” in the hands of organisations that appear vaguely “public”. The choice of term – Housing Association – cultivates an image of not for profit ( ycha fi ! ), caring, cost concious, etc etc , whereas the grim reality is increasingly one where money is thrown around by these H.A’s with little or no regard for value or outcome.

      Accountability is vague with way too little supervisory effort on the part of Government, then if & when the shit hits the fan we get the usual hand wringing about “irregularities”, “lessons learnt” and other meaningless cliches but seldom does anybody come away with severe disciplinary experience, instead they trot off down the road with a handsome payoff in time to join yet another suspect organisation.

      Script for a comedy series ? no, real life in Wales second decade 21st century.

    •  

      So, using the ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ technique, housing assocs should buy run down properties and do a bit of cosmetic work on them rather than buy land and build on it?

      •  

        There was a time, not so long ago, when housing associations did exactly that, they bought up existing properties and renovated them. Then, for some unknown reason, new legislation prevented from doing this. The results of this change in practice were: 1/ the centres of towns and villages lost their vitality as younger people, young families, were moved to new housing on the peripheries of these communities. 2/ Denying housing associations the ability to buy traditional stone-built properties in settlements, and outside of them, freed up many more of just the kind of bijou place ‘in the country’ that so many English buyers seek. What a coincidence!

        •  

          The H.A’s should be at liberty to buy old properties and refurbish them to good living conditions, while in other areas it would be more appropriate to buy land and build new. Conversions of commercial city & town centre office buildings into flats or some other format could be worthwhile. They attract criticism because they appear to suck in huge volumes of cash yet fail meet real needs of local communities while appearing to “trade” in the social problems created in the major cities.

          •  

            “Conversions of commercial city & town centre office buildings into flats or some other format could be worthwhile.”
            In the past, it’s been highly lucrative for developers seeking quick returns.
            Housing Associations have been active in the field of conversion jobs for quite a while.
            Sometimes Councils approve conversion applications submitted by developers on condition that a percentage of them are available to rent as ‘affordable housing.’ – HAs usually take on the management role.

            •  

              I was referring back to a time when, in Welsh villages, housing associations bought old properties, renovated them, and rented them out to locals.

        •  

          Reasons are not entirely unknown.
          Housing Associations – Academic paper by Prof David Mullins. http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/documents/tsrc/working-papers/working-paper-16.pdf
          For recent history, see page 8 onwards

          Carrying out cosmetic work on a property and then selling it means that the purchaser has responsibility for when things go wrong with the electrics, gas, plumbing, central heating, walls, floors, tiling, roof and woodwork.

          •  

            The switch was not mandatory. Welsh housing associations made the choice. One factor was obviously that new-build housing is being seen to be doing something in a way that renovating existing properties is not. Almost a permanent advertisement for social housing.

            But the fact remains that the consequence was that more of the traditional, stone- and slate-built dwellings became available for holiday home buyers and others, and that could have easily been predicted. Conditions in rural Wales were vastly different to urban England and a different approach was justified, taking into account factors absent from urban England.

            What I also noticed is that the report you linked to doesn’t seem to understand much about Wales. The writer keeps on about the ‘risks’ attached to ‘borrowing’, when as I’ve shown in this post, Welsh housing associations may borrow money but there’s no risk attached because the money is repaid by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Is this system unique to Wales?

        •  

          Housing associations actually used to prefer to renovate older properties, as it was exactly those properties that proved the most in demand as they were located in communities, near to shops and schools and other amenities. There was a period in the mid 90s when HAs were more or less prevented from doing this kind of renovation work, but I believe that was rescinded by the late 90s. I think that the total cost of the project has to be taken into consideration, and as anyone living in any picturesque area of Wales will know, even the most run down hovel commands telephone number prices to buy. In the early 80s when HAs were doing a lot of renovation work, (usually to pretty low and cost constrained standards) much housing in Wales was very cheap, there being much property available in the £10 – 15k bracket, and not run down hovels.

          I used to be a big fan of housing associations, but then the HA I rented from then was tenant controlled, the only one in Wales. Suffice to say, it didn’t survive the Welsh Office purge on such out-of-step ideas, and was forcibly taken over by another HA more in keeping with the image that the Welsh Office felt proper for a housing association – corporate, and far from being subject to any real control by those who cough up the cash, the tenants.

          Nowadays I’m still renting my home from a housing association, but I do not feel that the rents are in any way ‘affordable’ and that really, HAs have just become yet another Third Sector (and as many HAs are also chariites, ostensibly for corporation tax purposes [and also, I believe, as a cynical way of preventing tenant control] they are firmly in the Third Sector) career ladder for yet another group of detached, (and often condescending) professionals with no real understanding, or concern about the needs or interests of tenants, many of whom do question the amount of wastage involved.

          The funding of HAs is of concern, as it is very expensive, and critically, short term. Council housing was traditionally financed over 60 years, which meant that repayment of the loan could be financed from rents, and rents, because of the length of the repayment period, could be kept low, and truly affordable. Control was democratic, and local, and though I take your point that there was widespread corruption and favouritism, (and which interestingly you claim is an issue with HAs) but that is something that can be dealt with through an insistence on transparency. I do wonder where HAs get their figures from, but then I also question why the cost of building housing seems to have increased by such a factor since the early 80s when housing was probably far more affordable in general, both to rent and to buy. I know that increased standards will account for a percentage of that, but not the extent that the cost of housing has risen. (I’m talking about the fabric of the house, and not the land, as the insanity of that is a subject for another day.)

          Certainly more social housing is needed in the cities of Wales, and I do have some sympathy with your questioning about the level of supply in rural Wales – but I do find it hard to understand how there is an oversupply now, when 30 years ago (when I lived in rural Wales) people, and young people in particular struggled to find decent housing that they could plan their lives in that was affordable.

          I’m not sure where PRS fits in to all this, as it is a sector that I am particularly wary of, as there would be very little control over rents, unless of course some kind of rent control was instigated, which usually acts as a disincentive for housing investment by the private sector. Not that I’m any more a fan of the private sector than I am the state. I also don’t see why being exploited by a Welsh scumbag landlord is any better than being exploited by a scumbag landlord from anywhere else.

  10.  

    take note of the good lady’s name………….probably destined to become a Welsh speaking version of Sophie Howe, lower paid of course because she works through medium of Welsh ! Any bets on her succeeding Ms M Huws in a few years ? or will Ms Howe take that job as well ?

  11.  

    Jac, when you say that the Welsh Government housing association policy is an expensive failure, are you sure you don’t mean that it is a resounding success at ethno-linguistic cleansing? The point I wish to make is shown by the contrast of Rhondda compared with what’s occurring in Y Fro Gymraeg. Here’s my point…

    Rhondda Housing Association is a small longstanding one. It’s very small by comparison to others in Wales, is not subject the bids of acquisition, and it’s behaviour is to buy up small plots of like derelict working mens’ halls, and bits of scrap waste land left over from the mining industry, on which it builds small new build social housing. The people that occupy these builds is a new generation of locals who for some reason or other are low paid or alternate between part time work and unemployment. Single mothers, the car-less unskilled.

    RCT homes, however, are massive in comparison. They inherited the existing council stock are have massive estates in Tonyrefail, Penrhys, and Fernhill. They have parasited off the green funding stream for replacement boilers, double glassing, and insulation. This funding is HM treasury allocation which just passes through the gut of the WG, and ends up being top-sliced by firms which just happen to be owned by Labour Party grandees, in many cases profit making ‘facilities management’ subsidiaries of RCT Homes. They have hardly done any new builds.

    You can pick up a private house in the Rhondda for as little as £5000, which ‘needs improvement’, but both RHA and RCT Homes do not do this and the real poor are not able to raise the loan to do such properties up. There is a 20% penalty on these properties where works are subject to VAT, not so with new builds. Thousands lay empty are mainly owned by the local skilled ‘gone away to Swindon’ to work.

    RCT Homes, a giant, only claimed £165k of Social Housing Grant (new builds) but Rhondda HA, a minnow, claimed whopping £9million of it. That accurately reflects what’s occurring in ‘the valleys’. English retirees or holiday homes are not attracted to the likes of Penrhys estate, the ex-council stock H.A.s are being used as a gravy train, and the good work H.A.s are building new homes next to properties that are empty.

    http://i2.wp.com/jacothenorth.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Social-Housing-Grant-1.png?zoom=1.5&resize=600%2C444

    Also, if you look at the rest of Wales outside the big cities, we see H.A.s claiming huge chunks of Social Housing Grant for new builds. I suspect the reason for this is the local population cannot afford the purchase of a private dwelling due to the ‘holiday home’ prices and this is shifting the indigenous population from ownership into dependency. Not only that, I notice that H.A.s in these areas are obtaining planning permission on greenfield sites from the local authority for ‘affordable housing’. These developments are often, however, in conjunction or joint venture with private development of housing stock which tap into the lucrative private builds for incomers in rural areas. This is nothing short of ethnic cleansing.

    Are you aware on Kel Palmer? He’s a millionaire former RAF squadron leader, a pith helmet served in Malaya type, who lives on the notorious Fernhill estate near Mountain Ash. Sits on RCT Homes board. A bit of a raconteur and philanderer but the ladies of the Tynte reckons the only thing on note in his trousers is a Labour Party membership card.

  12.  

    Yes, I’ve run across Kel Palmer, he always struck me as a bit of a contradiction. Obviously a BritNat GSTQ medal-jangler but living in social housing and supporting Labour. Though I had no idea that he was (or imagines himself to be) a swordsman. I shall address the more substantive points in your comment when I find time.

  13.  

    …………………….”After I publish Green Party docs http://j.mp/1LbBAr5 La Bartolotti revives Martyn Shrewsbury, her attack hamster http://j.mp/1PPnUbO

    Seems like you are source of major irritation to your Green friends. The “Dragon” appeared to be cosying up to Ms Howe, does he have an undisclosed fetish for women in positions of power ? or is he just sucking up in the time- honoured fashion of mildly deviant inadequates with severe delusions of pulling power ? I don’t know the guy from Adam and given the writings do not crave the acquaintance of Mr Dragon, but you seem to have some knowledge – would you like to share ?

    •  

      Martyn Shrewsbury used to be head honcho in the Wales branch of the Greens, but he seems to have had no difficulty in letting La Bartolotti take charge. Indeed, he became her faithful lapdog, yapping at anyone who dared criticise her.

      Though it should be remembered that Shrewsbury had personal problems at this time, or rather, the tax authorities had problems with him. He very nearly ended up in Cox’s Farm with all the rough boys.

      Prior to this ‘misunderstanding’ with his creditors he had been putting himself about as some kind of ‘psychotherapist’. (I am unaware of him holding any recognised qualifications in this field.) I do hope this wasn’t ‘therapy’ of the kind practised by Nathan Gill’s father, which seemed to be nothing more than persuading women who should have known better to disrobe and oblige him.

      I am also informed that he has some odd ‘friends’ (and I don’t mean the Greens). This saddoe who pretended to be an ambulance driver has Shrewsbury as a ‘friend’ on his Facebook page.

      All in all, Shrewsbury is a sad little bugger, but nasty with it. Vindictive. He has obviously fallen under Botticelli’s spell and does her bidding, which explains why, just a week after I publish those confidential Green documents, he is instructed to, ‘Get him!’.

      Here’s his website. Very basic, no idea if he’s still operating. But reading it suggests that no matter what your problem, Shrewsbury can fix it.

      •  

        …….”no matter what your problem, Shrewsbury can fix it”………………or fuck you up completely if you not careful !!

        Good to know there are so many “caring” people wandering around our country.

    •  

      Is this the same Martyn Shewsberry who claimed on his blog im Anne Greagsby, well unless I’ve had a sex change operation and aged a few decades in the past 24 hours then Martyn’s got his facts wrong. He should be careful before telling lies and trying to smear others, perhaps he’ll set the record straight on his blog if he’s got any decency.

      I can only think he believed I’m a green party member because I dared ask about his blog suddenly stopping and then restarting without any explanation after Jac’s last post on the Green Party AGM, im not a member of any party and i’m still no clearer on the matter to be honest.

      And does Martyn really think that your views and opinions don’t have support in Wales, perhaps he should read Miserable Old Fart’s latest English posting, is he an ‘ethno fascist’ like he claims Jac is for saying what he said?

  14.  

    Jac off message, re your post of October 29, young Ryan is now a Carmarthenshire councillor, he won the Kidwelly by election by dropping the Labour vote by only 10%.
    Has the donkey vote turned into the groper vote?

    •  

      Labour’s donkey vote is blind to candidates’ shortcomings. If Hitler had come to Wales after WWII, joined the Labour Party, the donkey voters would have elected him saying, ‘Tidy bloke, really . . . I blames them Poles and Czechs for provoking’ ‘im’.

  15.  

    Quote from Trinity rag for North Wales ……@LeanneWood says attempts to forge racism and dividing bcommunities will not be tolerated. 1:26 PM – 21 Nov 2015

    Our great leader was preaching the virtues of unrestrained migration ( and accomodation, benefits etc ) to a rally of assorted fellow travellers at Ynys Mon.Their collective anger was aimed at Infidels of Wales, whose underlying objections to immigration and importation of criminals & sundry dysfunctionals is blighted by their rather obvious fixation with the Union, so just another passing fad like BNP, NF et al.

    Shame that the local Old Bill didn’t buzz off to check Holyhead Harbour or the bridge and let the 2 sides kick shit out of each other for an hour. Would have rid us of 2 lots of dull heads.

    •  

      The Left – and this includes Plaid Cymru – loves to ‘confront fascism’, and as publicly as possible. As if a bunch of semi-literate losers like these Infidels can be a threat to anyone. In this instance the irony is that the issue was immigration, and presumably the Infidels were opposing Muslim immigration (I haven’t bothered much with the news reports), yet this took place in Wales, so how many of those self-righteous wankers would turn out to march against the real immigration threat to Wales?

      •  

        most of the Infidels were very likely part of the shed load of dysfunctional types shipped in regularly from points East. But Plaid & co would not see the irony of the situation. That’s my reason for saying that local Old Bill should have got lost for an hour.

        •  

          If the police withdrew, there’d probably be looting and burning.

          “We marched from The Bull to the livestock market area. We stood our ground. Nothing is going to stop us reclaiming our streets.” said Robert Johnson, 24, who grew up in Luton, but now lives in Holyhead. – Daily Post.

          •  

            You neglected to mention that Mr Johnson is an ‘Infidel’. And I’m prepared to bet that many more of those who showed up in Llangefni on Saturday were low-life English immigrants, but Plaid Cymru would rather confront them as fascists than what they really are, and the bigger problem they represent. Infidel quote

            •  

              Mr Robert Johnson on the electoral register at 34 Arbour Close, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU3 4AQ. Has the phone number 01582 573262, according to the BNP membership listing. I wonder what washed him up in Holyhead ?

              •  

                It could well be that Mr Johnson has got himself in a spot of bother and the Probation Service has relocated him to some poor, run-down community in Wales. And they don’t come much poorer and run-down than Holyhead. If we had a real media it might be making enquiries into Johnson and the others in Llangefni last Saturday.

                •  

                  Even Radio Cymru todau today commented that most of the accents heard amongst the ‘Infidels’ weren’t local but Northern English. According to the BBC which one must always take with a large dose of salt, none of them were willing to be interviewed.

                  •  

                    Interesting that it was on Radio Cymru. Did Radio Wales report that most of the ‘Infidels’ were English?

                    •  

                      I was at the Infidel rally (but on the otherside – the non-Infidels). Although predominantly Plaid, Labour and Trades unions there were a fair smattering of local Christians, and people I know personally that are LibDem, Tory & UKIP. We numbered around 350 to 400.

                      As for the Infidels between 30 & 40. Now at this point you need to be aware that the Infidels are in fact a protest group run by the National Front. They consist of 4 major geographic groups – North Wales, South Wales, North West England, North East England all split into regions, plus a smattering of smaller groups in other parts of the UK. The hosts of this little get together were the Anglesey Division, North Wales Infidels, led by a local farmer – Roch ‘Treban’ Williams and including in it’s illustrious ranks a builder jailed twice for deception, last time ripping of vulnerable pensioners.

                      Their chosen tactic is to ‘piggy back’ a specific local concern alongside a more traditional right wing one and then use it as an excuse to hold a march – in reality they have no interest in the concern, it’s just a sham in order to hold the rally and hopefully recruit. In Llangefni’s case the chosen two issues – Islamification of welsh towns and villages (really?) and the resettling of sex offenders in welsh rural areas. The reality is they couldn’t give a toss about either.

                      Most of the Infidel leadership is hardcore violent football hooligans, overtly committed nazis and hard drug users (all three in some cases) and contains notable characters such as Luke Pippen from down Swansea way and Kevin Watmough from Yorkshire.

                      So, representing the Infidels in Llangefni, most of the 35 to 40 actually came from North West England, predominantly Blackpool and Blackburn. Sunderland, Rotherham and other places were also represented. Notable Infidel characters on display that day were Gerald McCullion, Pete ‘Mackem’ Wharton, and Shane ‘Diddy’ Calvert. Guest speakers included Kevin McMahon from North West England National Front. Google them, not a nice bunch of people. Of the dozen or so that came from North Wales, barely a handful were from the Anglesey Division.

                      Banners on display included Combat 18 (the 18 being AH – Adolf Hitler), White Pride World Wide and other such blatantly rubbish. One of the North Wales Infidels proaudly displayed a large swastika tattoo on the back of his neck and others gave nazi salutes near to the war memorial.

                      Of course, they denied all accusations of being racist and all accusations of being nazis.

                      The Infidels are planning to hold another rally in nearby Bangor sometime in January.

                    •  

                      I find it interesting that these Infidels are linked to the National Front. The NF has a long history of being run by the security services, going back to the days of Griffin and Roberto Fiore. In the ’80s they operated by ‘linking’ themselves to groups and movements that MI5 didn’t like in order to discredit such groups through unwanted and uninvited association.

                      Two examples. I was stunned when someone showed me the front page of NF News one day – the National Front had come out in support of Meibion Glyndwr! All done to smear MG with the ‘fascist’ label. Then, in 1989, we were planning the 20th anniversary of the Abergele tragedy, and a big event was planned, with contingents coming from Scotland and Ireland. A few days before the event the NF started appearing on radio programmes and in print saying they were coming to Abergele because they’d been invited. Again, done to smear the whole commemoration with the fascist tag.

                      Significantly, last Saturday the Infidels were protesting about paedophiles being dumped in Welsh communities, a real concern because everybody knows it’s happening. So, given the history, the purpose of the Infidels using this issue is to ‘contaminate’ it. To the point – it is hoped – where anybody raising the issue in future can be shouted down as ‘no different to those Infidels’, and a ‘fascist’. End of debate. No further opposition to the dumping of English paedophiles in Welsh towns and villages.

                      Thanks for the information. I am now clear in my mind that these Infidels are ultimately controlled by MI5. If I’m right, then we can expect to see more of them in Wales, and to see them focus more on Welsh issues.

                    •  

                      Personally,if there were to be any MI5 discrediting to be going on, it would be the national issue of the tandem – Islamification. Wherever they protest they have two issues, one is always Islamification, the second is specific to the area they are protesting in. For insatnce the one planned for Bangor is the two issues of Islamification and shortage of housing caused by students.

                      So if MI5 were smearing something, it would have to be Islamification as it is the only one that is ever ‘common’ across the board.

                    •  

                      ‘Islamification’ is the obvious issue for the extreme right, they have to campaign on that, it’s the ‘B side’ issues that interest me. These look like being the kind of issues I might write about. And that, given the NF’s previous links with MI5, is what makes me suspicious.

          •  

            you’re probably right,they would go on a rampage as they have no real attachment to the area. Much as we see various real threats from Islamic terror groups we should never ignore the potential for terror that exists among some of these far right Anglo Brit Unionist groups. They will seek to destroy or supress anything that is not in their own image.

  16.  

    Here we go again !

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/private-landlords-wales-subject-new-10482821

    another round of busybody bureaucratic interference by the dopey buggers down the Bae !

    Quite rightly there should be a concern about bad landlords. Student accomodation in parts of Cardiff was notorious, may still be, and there are cases all over where tenants have endured shocking living conditions – damp, leaking roofs, bad plumbing , defective heating etc etc.

    However the worst problems in private rented ( and public owned ) are those caused by seriously delinquent tenants who have no idea how to look after their homes and no inclination to learn. Calling them pigs is an insult to pork ! And this new regime will do nothing to sort out that cluster of issues. Typical “solution” spawned by Welsh Labour with Plaid happy to go along with it cos it cares for the poor & downtrodden !!

  17.  

    http://golwg360.cymru/newyddion/cymru/206791-cyngor-cymuned-yn-gwrthod-argymhellion-ombwdsmon

    Good to see a small community acting like they are still comfortable with their identity and culture. The old slag who was wingeing about use of Welsh should pop over the border to Cheshire, though I suspect there’s plenty in N.E. Wales who will go out of their way to make her feel at home.

  18.  

    What’s needed in Denbighshire is for some enormous housing development to drown out the voices of such troublesome locals. Oh hang on a moment…………….

  19.  

    […] See these figures for yourself (in Excel format) here. You might also find it worthwhile reading Housing Associations – The Great Deception in which I explain that there are other methods of funding social […]

  20.  

    […] See these figures for yourself (in Excel format) here. You might also find it worthwhile reading Housing Associations – The Great Deception in which I explain that there are other methods of funding social […]

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