May 082014
 

Regular followers of this blog may recall that back in 2012 (on the old Google blog, now, sadly, demised) I was able to give out some good news. Which was . . . that for properties to be built by Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd on a new development in Tywyn, “Prospective tenants must have lived and worked Tai Clwydin the area for at least five years”. I learnt this, first, from a piece in our local edition of the Cambrian News, in July (left, click to enlarge), and then it was confirmed in an e-mail I received from Tai Clwyd in September (below, ditto). These two pieces of information can only be read as saying, ‘these properties are reserved for local people’. Or, to be more specific – as Tai Clwyd was in its e-mail – a Section 106, local occupancy, restriction. (Though S106 can deal with other issues.)

Fast forward to 2014 and the word on the mean streets of Tywyn is that these properties are now to be allocated to “people from away” and “people on benefits”. In other words – welcome to Wales’ social housing allocation system: social housing either built in excess of local demand or, where there is local demand – as in Tywyn – locals being passed over in favour of people who have never been to Wales in their lives. A system I have explained more than once, and I shall do so again later in this piece.

In order to find out what has happened between the good news of 2012 and the sobering realities of colonial Wales in 2014 I decided to contact Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd . . . only to learn that it had recently merged with Cymdeithas Tai Eryri to form Grŵp Cynefin, which is “the only housing association to operate across all six north Wales counties plus north Powys”. My initial enquiries with Grŵp Cynefin (GC) drew a blank because it was denied there ever had been a S106 applying to Pendre Gardens, and therefore no guarantee could be given that locals would be offered any of the properties there. After e-mailing GC a copy of the September e-mail my query has now been passed to the Housing Manager.

In a follow-up phone call to GC I was told that it must be the fault of Cyngor Gwynedd that there was no S106. So I next checked the planning consent given by the council (because of course Tywyn is outside the Snowdonia National Park) and could find no mention of a S106. This full planning consent is dated July 23, 2012. So why did the Cambrian News run that piece telling everyone that these new dwellings were for locals only? And why was I told the same thing in September 2012 by Tai Clwyd, two months after that body had been granted the – S106-less – planning permission?

Grŵp Cynefin also referred me to Gwynedd’s Housing Options Team (GHOT), which seems to act as a link for the various social housing providers in the county while also serving as first contact for would-be tenants. The man I spoke with there was courteous and helpful, but could only point me in certain direTai Clwyd replyctions and suggest that an S106 would need to have been agreed between the council and the housing provider.

In another attempt to get answers I phoned the council’s planning department, where it took me a while to explain – or make the woman answering my call understand – that I wanted to know why something was not in an approval granted by the council. Having had my request accepted it could now be 15 days before I receive a response.

I suppose I could have waited until I got answers before writing this post, but my worry is that I’m not going to get the answers I’m after. If I had to bet on it, I’d say I’m in for a game of blame ping-pong. So I’m writing this post half-hoping it might get a better result than yet more phone calls and e-mails. Even so, the questions I would ask are these:

  1. Was it ever proposed to have a Section 106 local – 5-year residency – qualification attaching to the Pendre Gardens development?
  2. If it was, why was the proposal dropped, or the decision changed?
  3. Who authorised the change?
  4. For what reason(s) was the change made?
  5. If there was never any intention of attaching a S106 to Pendre Gardens why was everyone misled (if not lied to); why did no one from the council step in and give the correct information?

The main reason we’re in this mess is that to all intents and purposes Wales and England now operate a single, integrated social housing system. Just like one vast council, or housing association. Which means in practice that if there is a vacant property in Wales, and someone in England – anywhere in England! – has more ‘points’ than local applicants, then the English applicant could be allocated the property. Local connections count for very little. So if you are a law-abiding local, in regular employment, and have any kind of roof over your head, your chances of being allocated social housing are slim. My advice to you is start taking drugs, causing trouble and, best of all, make yourself homeless.

Of course, there will be those who argue that this is a two-way street, for Welsh people can move to England. Yeees . . . but given that England has 53 million people against our 3 million, it’s a two-way street with a bicycle travelling west to east and a 40-tonne juggernaut hurtling east to west. And I’m not just talking quantity, I’m also talking quality. For many of those being moved to Wales will be people that no self-respecting country would allow in. Here’s a selection. But bear in mind that this post I refer you to only deals with those who have made the news. The problem families, the pit bull fanciers, the casual criminals, the anti-social, the wife-beaters, the congenitally irresponsiblePendre Gardens sign, the ‘Ten-pints-and-I’m-Mike-Tyson, me’ types, the ‘breeders-for-benefit’ with their stupid, uncontrollable kids, the all-night party-holders, the fat, ugly women who think smoking ciggies keeps their weight down, these and others go unreported.

So I just cannot understand how this system that is so damaging to Wales and Welsh people has been accepted without resistance. I can only assume that housing associations are doing well out of it financially, and don’t really give a toss about the communities or the country in which they operate. Which might make sense; for Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (after taking over Gwynedd council’s housing stock) gave the maintenance contract for its properties to an English company that in turn employs sub-contractors from over the border who can only spend a short time actually working because of the distances involved travelling to and from work!

It cannot be right that someone who has never heard of Tywyn, or Tredegar, or Treaddur can qualify for social housing in these communities ahead of people who have lived there maybe all their lives. It cannot be right that Wales is used to help solve England’s housing problems. For as Gwynedd’s Common Housing Allocation Policy makes clear, “The scheme also complies with requirements of the legislation by providing priority or additional priority to: transferring tenants who will release accommodation in short supply . . . “ So if, say, Stoke-on-Trent council, or housing associations in that city, are experiencing pressure on their housing stock, then they can ask – maybe demand – that Welsh local authorities and housing associations give priority to those the Potteries would like to get rid of ‘transfer’ in order to make housing available. Some system, eh!

Change is needed. Social housing providers in Wales can no longer use the ‘Nuremburg Defence’ to implement an iniquitous system that so obviously works against Welsh interests. Social housing provision in Wales must be disentangled from that in England. A five-year residency qualification must be introduced for all social housing in Wales, with the only exceptions being genuine refugees and those who will be of benefit to Wales. Finally, those clowns down Cardiff docks need to realise that calling themselves the ‘Welsh Government’ must mean more than obeying civil servants and nodding through essentially English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ stuck in the title . . . like the Housing (Wales) Bill, and the Planning (Wales) Bill.

  17 Responses to “Social Housing: Led up the Pendre Gardens Path”

  1.  

    I asked Leanne Wood how we can insure that locals (Welsh) are not bypassed by immigrants, tagged as vulnerable, from England concerning rented housing. Her reply was “We need to build more houses.” Not a mention of the blatant colonisation scheme that has been unleashed on Cymru.

    •  

      Given the insatiable demand from England, and the lack of backbone in Wales, we could never build enough.

      •  

        That’s a disgusting reply from Leanne Wood but not surprising.

        •  

          Plaid Cymru is now conditioned to give certain responses. ‘Social’ / ‘affordable’ housing is always a good thing, but Plaid will never ask: ‘Who are these houses for?’ ‘Does Wales need these houses?’ ‘Are we being taken advantage of?’

  2.  

    I saw no mention either of occupancy or the requirement of a Section 106 agreement on the consent so that’s apparently the end of it.

    In South Wales these days a Section 106 agreement is almost always needed in a consent of this nature to deal with the provision of public space/play areas, highway upgrades and similar.

    Sadly I’ve always believed in the cock-up theory of events and that might apply here.

    •  

      But that’s my point – if there never was a S106 how do we explain the newspaper article and the e-mail? Why were the people of Tywyn misinformed? Come to that, what were the county councillors doing, they should have known there was no S106?

      •  

        At a total guess, the occupancy requirement was included in the supporting documentation at the time of the application. But then either somebody persuaded the officers or members that it ought to be a non binding aspiration (perhaps on the insistence of a lender worried about the value of its security or simply the HA worried about a lack of qualifying tenants) or there was a straight-forward mistake and it was omitted but no-one realised the implications until the consent came to be implemented.

        •  

          Believe me, there would be no “lack of qualifying tenants” in Tywyn. So there must be some other reason why those prospective tenants were deceived. We shall wait and see.

  3.  

    Last days I asked to a Plaid Cymru member in Twitter more than once about what were they doing related to the LDP’s in Wales and the decrease of Welsh language speakers, he didn’t answer not one of the questions. But he accused me of being racist because I said English was a silly language when I was replying to a bigot named David Carter, trying to bother him, when he was sputting his hatred against Welsh language. And saying he was Welsh. Anyway…

    •  

      Those who speak in the name of Plaid Cymru often seem to be speaking for themselves and those they’re afraid of antagonising rather than those they claim to represent. And when it comes to social housing, despite all of Plaid’s socialism, I often wonder if, because Plaid’s spokespersons won’t themselves need social housing, there isn’t a class element to this social housing blind spot.

  4.  

    Off topic, came across a great quote from renowned linguist Noam Chomsky on language and culture from a speech he made on the Catalan language and uses welsh to reinforce the point

    He says’ “We should recognize that there is enormous loss when the cultural wealth of a society disappears and that’s encapsulated crucially in its language.”

    The full speech on video is here http://m.vilaweb.cat/noticia/4189358/20140505/chomsky-uses-catalan-as-an-example-of-the-struggle-against-state-imperialism.html

    It wont shut the welsh language haters up, but its good to hear a heavyweight intellectual on the true value of native language to any country rather than bitter rantings from pygmies.

    •  

      I don’t think that the pygmies are uttering bitter rantings about the Welsh language. In the Congo, Aka may well disappear along with other minority languages.

      •  

        What do you get up to when you aren’t pissing people off on my blog with your anti-Welsh bigotry? I really want to know.

  5.  

    I’m not convinced that the comments of Morris and Moelwen by are correct. Plaid Cymru in RCT actually pursued a very distinctive housing policy in RCT between 1999 and 2004, supported by Leanne Wood prior to her elevation to party leader. It included demolishing one third of the housing stock on estates which had previously been used by Labour for social dumping like at Penrhys, and Hirwaun flats, directly sponsored genuine social provision with a five year residency clause in the articles of association of Rhondda Housing Association, opposition to the hand over of local stock to the ‘anyone welcome’ institution created by Labour called RCT Homes, and specifically linked the provision of Welsh medium education to LDP in the south of the county. Leanne does not have a policy of ‘build more at any cost’ but a build local, for local needs, renewal of stock, and planning for indigenous communities.

    This is where Leanne cut her teeth. There will be no dumping of wife beaters, paedos and ex-cons sent from England in these flats.
    A policy for Rhyl ?

  6.  

    Brychan; “I’m not convinced that the comments of Morris and Moelwen by are correct.” It is correct, her answer came after I questioned her on BBC Radio Wales regarding the priority placing of families from England in the rented housing sector. Again, not a mention of the colonisation of Cymru just “We need to build more houses.

  7.  

    I can confirm after applying for this housing and having gone through the interview process with my husband, that priority was given to local people and any successful applicants had to be verified by the council as living in the area for 5 years or more, the lady interviewing was also interested in our family links to the area, and I am pleased to say that after living here for 8 years and my husband 30 + we have been offered one of the houses in Pendre Gardens and couldn’t be happier or more grateful.

    •  

      Good. But are ALL the properties at Pendre Gardens being offered to locals, as was originally promised?

Ok, you’ve read what I think, now what do you have to say?