Housing associations: subsidiaries, partners, etc

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

Social housing is an issue I’ve written about many times over the years, and I make no apologies for returning to the subject again. For the old problems remain and new ones are emerging.

The old problems are:

  • An ‘arms race’ among housing associations to build more and more properties (often where there is little local need) to deter predators from swallowing them up.
  • Certain housing associations being very close to the Labour management team in Cardiff docks with this closeness giving them an unfair advantage over competitors.
  •  I say ‘competitors’ because, unlike the old system of the local council being the major or sole provider of social rented housing in a locality, we now have any number of housing associations operating in the same area.
  • Social tenancy allocations in Wales being made on an Englandandwales basis.

WARNING: This report gets complicated given all the players and different commercial entities. So sit up straight and pay attention!

‘BUILD THEM AND THEY WILL COME’

Cartrefi Conwy Cyf came into existence in 2008 with the transfer of Conwy council’s housing stock. In 2015 it branched out with the creation of a subsidiary, Creating Enterprise CIC (Community Interest Company).

Creating Enterprise CIC is now seeking ‘new income streams’ on the north coast, an area where north west England likes to dump its social problems.

What could possibly go wrong?

From the Creating Enterprise CIC Accounts. Click to enlarge

And Creating Enterprise CIC would appear to have found new sources of income, for the latest accounts tell us that turnover increased by over 700% between 2017 and 2019. That is impressive.

click to enlarge

As stated, Creating Enterprise is a subsidiary of Cartrefi Conwy (and many or even most of its ’employees’ may be Cartrefi Conwy tenants) that maintains and upgrades Cartrefi Conwy properties. Nothing unusual in that, many housing associations have in-house maintenance teams.

But there’s not much profit in such an arrangement, it’s just a housing association giving work to a wholly-owned subsidiary. The only way to make money is for the subsidiary to branch out. Which is what has happened with Creating Enterprise CIC.

But now it gets a bit complicated.

For while Companies House confirms that Creating Enterprise CIC exists, and with a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy that confirms CE’s subsidiary status, there is another Companies House entry for Creating Enterprise CIC, linking it with Calon Homes LLP. Explained in the panel below taken from Creating Enterprise CIC’s accounts.

Click to enlarge

As you’re read, the other partner in Calon Homes LLP is Brenig Developments Limited. There is a charge against Calon Homes LLP held by Creating Enterprise CIC, which in turn has a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy. Which means that, ultimately, housing association Cartrefi Conwy is in partnership with private company Brenig Developments.

Curiously, there is another, and different, Companies House entry for Brenig Developments Ltd suggesting that it’s a dormant company. To confuse matters further there is also a Brenig Construction Limited and a Brenig Homes Ltd. (None of which should be confused with Brenig Fish & Chips of Tregaron. Pass the vinegar!)

First question: Why did Cartrefi Conwy Cyf, via Creating Enterprise CIC, go into partnership with a dormant company?

Second question: There is an outstanding charge against Brenig Homes Ltd with Kennah Motor Credit Ltd, of Cheshire, a dissolved company. But why would a building firm seek credit from an auto finance company?

Third question: This report from Wales247 in September tells us that Calon Homes is building 11 houses in Middlewich, Cheshire. Why is a company half-owned by a publicly-funded Welsh housing association building private dwellings in England?

Fourth question: The architects involved with Calon Homes’ 111 Conwy properties mentioned in the Wales247 report are Base Architecture and Design, which is expanding. Does this (from the report I’ve linked to) give the game away, “Conwy is a thriving area with a lot of development and investment going on, particularly along the A55 corridor through to Anglesey,”

Fifth question: Why do we also read of Base Architecture and Design, “Its clients in the region include Brenig Construction, one of North Wales’ leading civil engineering and construction companies”? At 31.10.2018 Brenig Construction Ltd had a net book value of just £84,637.

Sixth question: This report, from last Thursday, tells us that Creating Enterprise is “in partnership with Norfolk-based Beattie Passive”. The only Beattie Passive company in Norfolk is Beattie Passive Norse Ltd. This company has ‘accumulated losses’ of £4,589,441. That’s £4.5m.

What we have here is a publicly-funded housing association – whose assets consist primarily of a stock transfer of council housing – playing at being a private company through subsidiaries and partnerships. Cartrefi Conwy justifies building properties for commuters, retirees and others from over the border by arguing that its share of the profits from this work will be used to build social housing.

But is that a sensible model? Let’s say Cartrefi Conwy lends Creating Enterprise CIC one million pounds that in turn is lent to Calon Homes to build in partnership with a private company. And let’s say that the profit on that project is £500,000. After being split with the private developer, and after admin, staff, and other costs are taken out by Creating Enterprise and Calon Homes, Cartrefi Conwy might be lucky to get back £50,000 for social housing. So why not just spend the original £1m on social housing?

The true purpose is building open market housing along the A55 commuter/retirement belt. And when we realise that most of Cartrefi Conwy’s other efforts go into providing care homes, retirement bungalows and flats, it becomes clear that it’s just an agency for the further colonisation of Wales.

OLD AND NEW

In the introduction I listed the established problems with ‘social housing’ in Wales. Having got this far you’ll know that the new problems stem from diversification.

But the problem is not confined to Cartrefi Conwy. Let’s go to the other end of the country and look at Mill Bay Homes in Pembrokeshire, a private company and a subsidiary of Ateb (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing). Despite being a private company Mill Bay has a “revolving credit facility with the parent”, Ateb.

Which in practice means that money held by Ateb that should be used to provide social housing is loaned to Mill Bay to build homes for ‘investors‘, ‘retirees‘ and others, including holiday home buyers. (Check those links.)

Clearly, the system in Pembrokeshire differs from that up north in that instead of entering into a partnership via a subsidiary with a private company, with the subsidiary getting 50% of the profits, Ateb loans money directly to in-house subsidiary MBH, which does the building.

From the Mill Bay Homes accounts 2019. All that money could have been spent on social housing rather than on building holiday homes and properties for investors and retirees. Click to enlarge

But much of Mill Bay Homes’ profits will be eaten up by its own running costs, for it is after all a separate company with its own staff and overheads. Unless MBH is selling its properties at greatly inflated prices it’s difficult to see how it can ever repay Ateb.

An example of how Mill Bay Homes operates is its St Davids’ development. Due to the demand from England for property in and around St Davids most locals experience great difficulty in finding a place to buy at a price they can afford.

Yes, a small number of properties on the new development are reserved for locals (with a very narrow definition of ‘local’) and a small window in which to apply. Otherwise, it’s “32 executive dwellings . . . 2, 3 and 4 bedroom bungalows.”

Executive homes and retirement bungalows. Just what local first-time buyers are looking for!

Mill Bay claims to be meeting the local need in St Davids but in reality it’s just capitalising on the external demand.

But nobody cares, for there is neither regulation nor oversight of housing associations.

An example would be the ‘Welsh Government’s ‘Shared Ownership Wales’ scheme – a disguised form of leasehold – that should only be offered by Registered Social Landlords (registered with WG); yet it’s available in St Davids and elsewhere through Mill Bay Homes, a private company that is not a RSL.

And all the while we hear politicians complain about the lack of social housing, and how we must build more – so more money is given to housing associations . . . and spent on ‘diversification’.

Let’s face it, we are in the same position with ‘social housing’ as we are with the third sector – keep a problem alive and publicised in order to keep the funding flowing. If housing associations wanted to meet the demand for social housing – i.e. for good quality rented accommodation – then they would not be launching subsidiaries.

The bottom line is that social housing in Wales has been privatised, and to pretend otherwise is deceitful. I tried to explain it last year in The Privatisation of Welsh Housing Associations.

Click to enlarge

Finally, those who think that it’s better to see private housing built by Welsh housing associations than by major English companies should think again. For they don’t challenge Persimmon, Wimpey, and the rest, they complement them by building the smaller developments that the volume builders can’t be bothered with.

The social housing system in Wales is broken, it no longer serves its original purpose. So we need a new system to provide affordable rented accommodation.

♦ end ♦

 

36 thoughts on “Housing associations: subsidiaries, partners, etc

  1. Stanley

    This over complication of legal structures is just endemic in Wales regardless of what you look at. Yes PLC’s take over plenty of companies but quickly integrate and rebrand them. Growth is key on sales, margins and most of all the need for good people. You have to buy that through acquisition, to stay alive so it’s fine.

    This isn’t the problem though – you’ve got the wild west going on, with tin pot operators.

    All of this reminds me of the Midlands in the 1970’s when the council was giving away enterprise money. Loads of shit people were after the cash in the towns and the mining areas, it was easy pickings and the locals were forced out to find work elsewhere.

    Politicians are not going to get you out of this problem, they are part of it. So by-pass them. Tell the Govt to sod off, the problem is yours, you don’t need their help to solve it.

    You need a group of people who can articulate what you need and want that’s right for your culture. Then build off that concentrating on one good company to open up over here. It’s surprising how others follow.

    You have some damned good commentators here – get yourselves organised and build a Wales that reflects who you are, and move on.

    1. The situation we have in Wales is unavoidable when people with no understanding of business or commerce have control of the disbursal of large sums of money and are desperate to show that they’re encouraging ‘investment’. As you say, it becomes a Wild West Show. And the word gets out, which attracts more cowboys.

  2. Wynne

    Interesting post again Jac. I’m monitoring Mill Bay Homes’ activities in detail on their site at Cilgerran. Serious drainage / flooding issues have been identified with communal land drainage and surface water drainage assets being buried in the gardens of residential dwellings and no adoption agreements executed regarding their future maintenance. No monitoring or enforcement by Local Authority. My correspondence is continuing with the Council’s CEO Ian Westley and senior management. In view of the issues identified, I am extending my investigation to also include their other sites in Pembrokeshire, including St Davids. Will update you as my investigation progresses. Your analysis spot on as usual.

  3. Dafis

    Seems like we are well on our way to creating a mini-Soviet here in Wales. Private capitalism, free enterprise is regarded as bad and we need to wean away from it. Instead state funded, or supported “enterprise” is encouraged generally led by friends of the Party or part of the Party machine. Labour love being Big Brother and Plaid doing its best to jog along as supportive little brother. Hence the fixation about getting money from London, not freedom. Candidates for the High dependency unit if not already in it.

    1. That’s it – ‘state capitalism’. Labour and Plaid are anti-business but want to disguise their prejudice by allowing idiocy like this. Which, by pure chance, fulfils the wishes of their London masters. And allows everybody to point to the ‘number of houses being built in Wales’.

  4. Mel Morgan

    For a long time now, the class of people ruling Wales on behalf of our large neighbour have been treating much public property as if it belonged to them. The current trend is now turning their control of public assets into a patrimonial interest in immovable property.

    1. Dafis

      MM says ” “….treating much public property as if it belonged to them…..”.

      Mel , it’s worse than that as there is throughout the UK and certainly here in Wales a steady shift of money and assets out of government ownership into private holdings. It’s often a case that the upside profit potential pays into the corporate purse while the public purse catches the downside losses and write offs. It’s not even financial engineering, just plain looting of that which belongs to the nation. Ministers, representative politicians and senior civil servants are all party to these scams.

      1. Mel Morgan

        As you say, a form of looting. This slow-motion form of looting, however, is much more lucrative, and very much less hazardous to the looter, than extracting a wide-screen television set through a broken plate-glass window.

  5. Dafis

    New low in the Bay with all the moralising tossers voting AGAINST the creation of a lobbyist register. Never thought I would commend Hamilton and the ex UKIP/Brexit Party A.M’s but they seem to have more integrity than any of those little shits that represent Plaid and Labour. Nest of corrupt deviants.

    1. Brychan

      Would you be including Leanne Wood AM in your term “moralising tossers” ? The reason I ask is because this weekend she’ll been out campaigning for more support for the homeless, just as soon as she’s banked the income from renting out two of the three homes she owns. She’ll be accompanied by Michael Sheen who’s flying over from his mansion in Los Angeles, who’s also booked in to campaign against climate change. Just asking.

        1. Brychan

          Yes. Title deeds. Just to confirm, a primary residential property in Penygraig, Rhondda, a second residential property in Cardiff, and a third a residential property in Leeds, Yorkshire. It could be argued that some of these properties are jointly held (by Leanne and her partner) but the point is that had they been sold due to household consolidation, they would be released to occupation. Rental income is only declared on the property in Cardiff, which suggests the one in Yorkshire, which has no vacant penalty council tax premium, is held empty.

          I have no problem if it was just two, for a valid purpose. Historically very common in Rhondda, due to dearth of local work. It means that the main family home is vacated during the week by the main breadwinner who works “away” and has opted to buy, rather than rent. Purpose is for work. However, as the taxpayer pays the main income for the Wood household, is within easy reach of Cardiff where the second property is held and I see no reason why a third property is held as vacant possession. This is while Leanne herself tours photo opportunities at foodbanks and give speeches to third sector organisations on the injustices of homelessness.

          In the meantime I have made real progress in helping some homeless people, myself.

          One who was reported for minor criminal offences and after background checks has been deported as an on-the-run rape suspect from Poland, one who was vagrant under an assumed identity having breeched signing of abode requirements of the sex offenders register and another who was wanted for failing to appear in court in England as a suspect in serious charges of domestic violence. I hope Leanne will be delighted in my small, but very effective, efforts to solve the homelessness problem.

      1. Dafis

        Brychan, is your question rhetorical or should I succumb to the temptation to answer ? Oh bugger it here we go so bear with me while I froth at the mouth a bit .

        The story about the dirty rentier lady from the Rhondda is new to me but sadly it merely reinforces the negative view of politicians in general. I have no objection to anyone owning a small portfolio of properties as they may be doing good for local communities which those daft H.A’s prefer not to, as they are obsessed with shipping in dysfunctional antisocial units from various bits of England. However if that is what drives her she ought to climb off her particular bandwagon and jump onto Jac’s wagon as she may have stumbled onto some common ground. But that’s not likely.

        As for the boy Sheen I have liked some of the things he’s done although they all serve to give him starring roles in photo shoots. Jetting about to campaign on climate change is about as daft as you can get no matter how many tree plantings you pay for. If he wants to preach about pollution all he has to do is film a piece to camera in his Hollywood back yard and release it on Youtube, Facebook etc. I’m sure Plaid and the Greens would give it star billing on their websites, and as it’s the season for collaboration I’m sure Jo Swinson and Ms Dodds would stuff it in somewhere on LibDems media resource so long as he accepted lower star billing than those 2 camera addicted old birds.

        I hope that covers the points and didn’t exhaust your patience !

    2. Wrexhamian

      If the Senedd was a school, it’d be in Special Measures. I see no way out of the hegemony enjoyed by the housing associations and third sector, but McEvoy could give it a go.

  6. Brychan

    Mid Wales Development Corporation which was established by a Labour government (Cledwyn Hughes, Sec of State 1967) which eventually morphed into the Development Board for Rural Wales, funded a public sector house building scheme in Newtown, Powys but borrowing millions from the UK National Loans Fund.

    Hundreds of houses were built like those on the Trehafren estate.

    The finance deal was for 60 years at an interest rate of over 14%. DBRW was abolished and the loan book was inherited by the Welsh Government, the debt not due to be paid off until year 2041 with early re-payment penalties.

    Many of these homes have long since been handed over to housing associations, the Welsh taxpayer having been landed with paying for properties that it no longer owns. There will be no assets held, even when the loans are paid off.

    These properties are now filled with tenants through a “Common Allocations Scheme” which includes Wales West Housing Association, Grwp Cynefin, Mid-Wales Housing, Newydd Housing Group, Pobl Group, Pennaf Housing Group and Melin Homes.

    1. I was in Newtown yesterday, as it happens (and Welshpool), and I was always a big critic of the DBRW.

      Ostensibly, the Board was set up to stop the exodus of young people from the region – Powys + Ceredigion and Meirionnydd – but its true role was obvious for all to see. It had money available to attract new industries – with their complete workforces. Which explains why so much housing was built for ‘key workers’. And everyone could qualify as a ‘key worker’, including the tea-lady. This meant whole families moving to the area, usually from the West Midlands.

      In practice, if widget makers Evans & Jones wanted a grant to expand and take on more local employees the DBRW would refuse to help. Or rather, by the terms of its charter, the Board could not help. The DBRW could however fund widget makers Smith & Brown to move from Wolverhampton with that company’s complete work force . . . and put Evans and Jones out of business.

      It was such a blatantly colonialist and colonising enterprise that I was amazed politicians didn’t speak out. But then the bullshit about ‘new jobs’ and ‘investment’, and the fear of being called ‘racist’ succeeded in shutting everyone up. And then there were all the photo opportunities!

      Incidentally, if what I saw driving around Montgomeryshire yesterday is anything to go by, then the Tory candidate, Craig Williams, should start looking for accommodation in London. It’s done and dusted.

      1. Brychan

        I think you’ll find that the chairman of the DBRW was Glyn Davies. He, of course, since became the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, who has just stepped aside for Craig Williams. No doubt, you would have passed the old Laura Ashley factory at Carno on your journey.

        Here is the some important historical breakdown of grants.

        https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/written-answers/1990/mar/21/laura-ashley-company

        You will notice the massive jump in funding DBRW in 1986. This was after Laura’s death in 1985, and the company, Laura Ashley Holdings went public in a flotation. The way in the grant funding was structured favoured large conglomerate companies and deliberately shunned ‘family owned’ enterprises, and Laura Ashley fell under this trap.

        It was a ‘policy’ of colonialism, and although the Ashleys were an inward investment to the area, they, like local indigenous enterprises could not access any significant support because of ‘family ownership’. That was until Laura fell down the stairs and died, resulting in public floatation.

        There is also myth that they built housing ‘for local workers’. The Ashleys had to purchase their own plots of land and built houses for staff, those who were mainly Welsh from the catchment area. Here is an interview, first hand testimony from Morfydd Lewis.

        http://www.factorywomensvoices.wales/uploads/VN002.2.pdf

        The ‘housing’ provided under the scheme was ‘loaded’. It was designed as a ‘plantation settlement’, for those not from mid Wales. Not only was the employment support working against the indigenous population, a trap even Laura Ashley for reason of family ownership fell into, but the housing, now gifted over to private ownership, was linked and provided for those who were not indigenous to the area. This at the same time where Welsh taxpayers are lumbered with the loan book on the original construction costs.

        This is the very definition of colonialism.

        1. We need to remember that DBRW housing was scattered over a wide area, explained by the genesis of the whole project.

          In 1964 (I believe) a plan was announced for a new town in the Severn Valley near Caersws. A new town of 60,000+ people. It was an overspill town for the West Midlands, and its intention was so obvious that there was almost universal opposition. So the plan mutated. Instead of one new town the influx would be dispersed to make it less visible and to reduce the opposition.

          I remember when I and my family first moved to Tywyn in 1980 (or moved back, in the case of my wife) we were initially renting a caravan; myself, my wife and two young children. There were DBRW houses vacant in Tywyn at the time so I phoned up the DBRW hoping to get one – after all, I was a worker who’d moved to the area.

          A woman answered the phone, I explained our situation, there was a pause, and then she said, ‘But these houses are not for people like you!’ I put it down to the Swansea accent.

          1. Dafis

            She had you sussed there Jac. Already well known for your time with the Wild Bunch, a.k.a F.W.A, she was reading off a D.B.R.W / Welsh Office blacklist to ensure that insurgents would be prevented from settling in territory earmarked for colonialist re- settlement. If she’d seen that photo of you grinning while dear old Cayo toyed with that pistol then mostly likely she shat a brick! Poor old Phil Parry still has nightmares about it.

  7. Dafis

    Interesting how the EU can’t get its ducks in a row on tax regulation

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/nov/28/12-eu-states-reject-move-to-expose-companies-tax-avoidance?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0d1YXJkaWFuVG9kYXlVS19XZWVrZGF5cy0xOTExMjk%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&CMP=GTUK_email

    Yet this is the “virtuous” body that the LibDems and their angelic little helpers Plaid Cachgwn insist we remain within. Does EU have a register of lobbyists, and if so is it effective, or is it treated as just another obstacle to getting through the back door ?

    1. Mel Morgan

      The EU ex hypothesi doesn’t have any ducks in this particular farmyard. It’s a matter of the Member States’ cajoling one another into taking joint action. That will take a *lot** of time and effort.

    2. Brychan

      It’s wrong to assume that it’s disclosure or the basic rate of corporation tax as the important factor. Here are some examples of ‘good avoidance’..

      Germany.
      Instead of paying tax on profits you can roll over that amount to following years as long as it’s applied as a ‘restricted retainer’ into R&D, as long as it’s spent within Germany. This drives their high-tech economy.

      France.
      Instead of paying tax on profits you can ‘deduct’ amounts from this in the same year by paying social taxes in advance, like health insurance for staff. The state effectively banks the profit as a national insurance prepayment owned by the workforce. In the Netherlands they also have stuff like a bike for commuting as a perk provided by employers as full deductible on corporation tax.

      Sweden.
      There is complete transparency and a high corporation tax rate, but this transparency has the advantage for companies who are required to adhere to specific quality and ethical standards. Important in pharma, timber, tech-metallurgy etc. Like Finland you can also amortise any revenues from patents outside the scope of corporation tax making them innovation centres.

      Ireland.
      Although they do exploit low corporation tax they do have company law preventing the ‘up-sticks’ issue. If the European HQ of Intel tries to move, they have to pay over a historically banked premium. It’s effectively a government bond.

      United Kingdom.
      The problem is that corporation tax policy is driven by the banking sector in London. There’s nothing tangible to leverage. It puts the rest of the economy, nations and regions, at an economic disadvantage, as they are unable to employ any ‘avoidance incentives’. It’s not the operation of the EU that’s at fault. It’s the way the UK operates within the EU. This is why Indy Scotland sees a remain option. It’s because they aspire to be like other EU countries, free from the UK. The issue in Wales is different, as both Plaid and Labour operate a dependency economic policy, the begging bowl of London crumbs.

      1. Dafis

        There are instances of “good avoidance” in the UK tax regime also, but the underlying problem at present is the practice of creating wholly artificial or distorted international structures within large corporates to evade/mitigate tax liability and net maximum proceeds from the exercise. If companies choose to make good use of profits, such as reinvestment for future competitiveness and efficiency, then all well and good, but the use of internal management charges, transfer pricing, and/or allocating transactions to a soft tax environment is the sort of thing that needs severe regulation otherwise the burden of the public purse falls unfairly on the other tax paying segments of any economy, such as the wage/salary earners in that country.

  8. Dafis

    Completely off topic (which must be tolerated on a Sunday !) try catching the Sunday Times’ lop- sided coverage of the Euro 2020 draw. Full page with photos of English and opposition stars like Modric. 2 paragraphs late in the article on Wales, before it tapers off to 7 lines on likes of Belgium and Holland. Love the bias !

  9. Dafis

    I didn’t see the TV debate but have read reports that Adam Price ripped into the Labour Party rep and gets all round applause over Welsh Labour government’s failure to adopt a more generous social care policy along the lines of the Scottish provision – good for him.

    Why then has he and his lot of Plaid A.M’s been so content to cosy up to Labour down the Bay for years and only kicks up a fuss when he’s on TV. Politics with a split personality ? or just plain two faced ?

    1. It’s just Plaid Cymru putting on a show for an election. Though in fairness to Price he’s never been as close to Labour as many others in his party.

      1. Dafis

        Maybe, but he makes a big show of being a “true Socialist” as opposed to Labour’s sham socialism or old boys club, or whatever it may be today. What struck me about all this debating and TV showboating is the allround hostility towards Nicola Strugeon which is a sure sign that she’s the one they all fear and see as a real threat to their cosy London centred way of doing things, whereas Plaid is just a minor irritation unlikely to cause any lasting damage.

        How things changed. 50 years ago Gwynfor, pacifist Gwynfor, was the main bogey man and SNP was just a handful of odd Scots racking up a first victory at the polls.

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