Housing in Colonial Wales: The Sun King teams up with The Godfather

Let’s begin by setting out my stall: Housing in Wales is dysfunctional, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful of public funding, damaging to Welsh community life, and undermines Welsh nationhood.

It’s a great system . . . but not for the Welsh.

LE ROI SOLEIL

In an earlier post (scroll down to the section ‘Who will buy . . . ‘), we met Dr Glen Peters. An interesting character, Glen.

Before moving to Wales he was a senior partner in PwC, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, those pillars of the City of London that give glowing reports of financial health to firms about to head up Shit Creek and when they’re not doing that they’re extolling the probity of corrupt third world regimes.

The ‘Big Four’ will do and say anything for money. Making Peters a man with an interesting past.

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He seems to have arrived in Wales in 2010 and in December of that year he founded Western Solar Ltd.

He also launched himself as the beneficent and culture-loving squire with Menter Rhosygilwen, a charity (No 1139848) which, to judge by its programme, at least recognises it is in Wales. Rhosygilwen being the name of his mansion not far from Cilgerran in north Pembrokeshire; with performances taking place in Neuadd y Dderwen, which looks like a set for Game of Thrones. Neuadd y Dderwen must have cost a few bob.

Being a man who understands money it didn’t take Glen long to realise how easy it is to screw grants out of the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’. For it came to pass that he received £141,000 to turn an old cowshed into a small factory turning out units for eco-friendly homes.

Six such properties were built in the off-the-beaten-track hamlet of Glanrhyd, a development called Pentre Solar. We are told that these were built specifically for the Ateb group (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing) who took all six of them for £900,000. Money it had been loaned by the aforementioned and self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.

But given that there is no worthwhile oversight or monitoring of ‘loans’ it’s unlikely this money will ever be repaid. As far as the ‘Welsh Government’ is concerned, once the money is gone, and the boxes are ticked, that’s the end of it.

Though there are a number of curious features about this deal.

Let’s start with the fact that in a number of places it’s claimed that these eco homes were built for half the price of traditional brick-built homes. For example, in this video, at 0:32, by Peters himself. Yet Ateb paid £900,000 for six properties, £150,000 per home.

To build a traditional 2/3-bedroom, semi-detached house in north Pembrokeshire would cost £90,000 – 120,000. Which means that if Glen Peters is right, and he could build his houses for half that, then he made a very tidy profit when Ateb paid him £150,000 per house.

Something else that troubles me is that housing associations like Ateb already receive millions of pounds every year from various funding streams, so why was it necessary to bung them another £900,000? Because I’m damn sure the Tŷ Solar properties were not bought to meet a pressing local demand out in the middle of nowhere.

Question 1: Can Ateb guarantee that the houses at Glanrhyd, paid for with Welsh public funding, were allocated to Welsh people?

Whatever the answers, a lot of moolah has already gone west and there’s more on the way. Next up is a 15-home ‘garden village’ for Boncath. Why Boncath? Well it might be because that’s where Victoria Beard lives. ‘Who’s she, Jac?’ you demand.

Well, she appeared on the website a few months back (before I wrote my earlier piece), as one of the locals connected with, or employed by, Menter Rhosygilwen. Though I’m told she was actually employed by Pembrokeshire county council before branching out on her own with Foresight She Ltd, yet another ‘consultancy’ that seems to have gone the way of all flesh.

BURRY PORT

Also mentioned in the piece I linked to regarding Boncath is “a 30-unit scheme of affordable homes already lined up for a site in Carmarthenshire on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council”. To be specific, this development is in Burry Port, to the west of Llanelli.

For some reason Burry Port has been targeted for excessive development in recent years with hundreds of new houses built, almost all of which have been bought by English buyers, mainly retirees or those close to retirement. Yet more housing is planned – and Plaid Cymru welcomes it!

Councillor Alun Lenny is quoted as saying, “There’s 103 first-step homes here, affordable homes, all low cost homes”. Yet the WalesOnline report in which he’s quoted tells us: “There will be eight different house types on the new development, mainly two and three-bedroom homes, as well as some with four bedrooms, with the majority semi-detached.” And goes on to say: “21 of the 103 homes will be offered as affordable housing for sale or rent”.

Four-bedroom houses are not “first-step homes”.

Plaid Cymru really hasn’t got a clue. They don’t even understand what they’re giving planning permission for. No wonder Wales is in the mess it is. Though it would have been nice if the report had told us who plans to build these houses, and how much public funding is involved.

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Question 2: For Plaid Cymru. Can you offer any promises that these “affordable homes” will be bought by local people and can you guarantee that the properties in the social housing “ghetto” (mentioned in the report) will be allocated to local people?

The development with which Glen Peters is involved in Burry Port, the “divided town which didn’t want any more new homes”, is for 32 homes to be built by Cartrefi Croeso Cyf., which we looked at in the previous post. Let’s remind ourselves what we read there.

The managing director of Cartrefi Croeso is Robin Staines, and the sole directors are Jacob Morgan and Sarah Wendy Walters, also employees of Carmarthenshire county council. Which effectively means that this company belongs to Mark Vincent James, the Cardiff Bay property magnate who doubles up as CEO of Cyngor Sir Gâr.

But why would a council with its own housing department need Cartrefi Croeso? I suppose an obvious answer might be that the county can no longer build new council housing. But then, there are any number of housing associations operating in the county – shouldn’t they be filling the gap? The obvious answer to that is, yes they should. And to all intents and purposes they are.

But Mark James doesn’t control those housing associations.

‘STICK ON A FEW SOLAR PANELS – BINGO!’

Even so, let’s not be too hard on Jamesie Boy, because he’s received great encouragement from (the aforementioned and self-styled) ‘Welsh Government’; that shower is providing the funding for what appear to be the retirement properties Cartrefi Croeso plans to build.

Specifically, the funding comes from the Innovative Housing Programme, launched in February 2017. In its first year the IHP was restricted to Registered Social Landlords and councils, but in its second year – beginning April 2018 – it was open to private companies, which explains the involvement of Cartrefi Croeso. For although it’s owned by the council it is a private company and registered as such with Companies House.

Though it seems to have given itself a wide remit, as shown in the panel below, taken from the Companies House entry. The first two categories, 41100 and 41202, obviously cover the Burry Port development, but the other two suggest it might be worth keeping an eye on Cartrefi Croeso.

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Over three years the Innovative Housing Programme budget will shell out £90m.

We’ve come a long way from the £141,000 given to Glen Peters to convert the old cowshed. We’ve considered a lot of Welsh public funding, and you have to ask how much benefit Welsh people and Welsh communities will derive from this expenditure. As I mentioned earlier, the properties being built by Mark James Cartrefi Croeso in Burry Port are almost certainly retirement properties.

Given the excessive housebuilding the town has seen in recent years, and the buyers’ profile, I can’t help wondering if someone, somewhere, has designated Burry Port a retirement settlement. Perhaps the locals should be informed?

Question 3: For Lesley Griffiths. Why is your self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ giving public funding to private companies to build new homes – for which there may be no local demand – when you already fund countless housing associations and there is already a private sector building open market dwellings?

Almost inevitably, there are hidden costs to the Welsh public purse, for in this article from last week’s Tivyside Advertiser Glen Peters tells us that to build his houses, “Welsh tree trunks will arrive at one end and houses will emerge from the other” . . . which will mean paying ‘re-wilders’ and the like to plant more trees.

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As I said earlier, it’s a great system . . . but not for us.

LABYRINTHINE, CORRUPT, COLONIALIST

Looking at the wider picture, housing in Wales is an absolute shambles. I could write a book about it, but it would be too depressing, it would drive me to drink. One example, again from the Wild West, might serve to explain what I mean.

Ateb has a subsidiary named Mill Bay Homes. I’ve written about Mill Bay Homes more than once, and had threats from solicitors for suggesting that everything was not above board. Just type ‘Mill Bay Homes’ into the Search box at the top of the sidebar.

Since then, Mill Bay Homes has gone entirely private, is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, and yet is still somehow part of the Ateb group. But despite being a free-flying bird MBH still owes the parent company £5.5m, secured with a floating charge over everything MBH has.

Much of this five-and-a-half million pounds – and the debt was larger at one time – is public funding given to Ateb, then transferred to Mill Bay Homes for it to build nice properties in Pembrokeshire for investors, retirees, and those seeking a holiday home.

How about that – holiday homes funded from the Welsh public purse!

Even if you’ve never heard of Walter Scott’s Marmion I bet you’ll be familiar with “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive”. Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that it’s apposite to the relationship between the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, the Ateb group and Mill Bay Homes.

To explain how convoluted and confusing it can all get when publicly-funded bodies spawn private companies let us hie to Cilgerran, just a short distance from Glen Peter’s sumptuous pad.

There we find properties being built by Mill Bay Homes. Here’s one for sale with John Francis and it offers ‘Shared Ownership’ (actually a shared lease). Ateb, the Registered Social Landlord, is allowed to offer Shared Ownership, but Mill Bay Homes, the private company, is not.

Question 4: I throw this one out for anyone. Seeing as private company, non-RSL, Mill Bay Homes should not be offering buyers ‘Shared Ownership’ why is it allowed to do so?

Maybe I’m wasting my time, for as I say, there is no effective monitoring or oversight of housing associations.

It’s a jungle that gets more impenetrable every year. But that’s how housing associations like it. That’s how the ‘Welsh Government’ likes it. And it’s certainly how those who control devolution in Wales like it. You and I are not supposed to understand . . . or question.

But sod it, because I’m going to end with some questions for the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’:

  • Why do you allow the building of so many houses Wales doesn’t need, at prices most Welsh people can’t afford, and often in places where these properties are not needed?
  • Given the way housing associations operate tens of million of pounds every year is spent housing people with no Welsh connections, so how difficult would it be to insist on a five-year residency qualification for social housing, and then divert the money saved to the NHS and education?
  • Why do you not ban publicly-funded bodies from setting up private subsidiaries that often receive indirect public funding and yet over which you have even less influence than the parent?
  • If you’re serious about encouraging the private sector why threaten it with these private subsidiaries that also have the unfair advantage of insider knowledge?
  • Will you examine the relationship between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes and all similar publicly-funded bodies with private subsidiaries?
  • Can you offer a definition of ‘affordable housing’?
  • Thinking of Burry Port, do you ever consult local people over plans for their community – real locals?
  • Explain how it is in the interests of Wales to attract an elderly population from outside of Wales?
  • Will you revisit the £900,000 given to Ateb to purchase six properties from Western Solar Ltd that – if the builder is correct – cost less than half of that sum to build?
  • Why do we have so many housing associations competing with each other, duplicating each other’s role, and all in receipt of public funding? How much do you estimate could be saved from mergers, simply on chief executives’ salaries?
  • What do you intend doing to help those in the south east currently being outbid in the local property market by commuters from Bristol?
  • Why don’t you relieve local authorities of the hassle by imposing a national 200% council tax on all second homes? And close the loophole.
  • Can you guarantee that there are no properties sold as holiday homes that were built with public funding, or bought using one of the many schemes you offer to help people buy a home?
  • Even though you’ve had twenty years, why have you found it impossible to develop a housing sector attuned to and serving the needs of Welsh people?

♦ end ♦

 

46 thoughts on “Housing in Colonial Wales: The Sun King teams up with The Godfather

  1. Dafis

    14 questions that most likely will yield 14 shrugs of shoulders or “dunno”‘s. At their worst they might produce a “do fuck off, I’m now busy with the next scam that’s busting urgent for funding”.

    Seriously though we often hear the old refrain “we’re too poor to stand on our own, we must keep sucking the tit in London for ever” when the reality is that we are mis-managed by a bunch of wasteful, deceitful creeps posing as a government of this colonised western region. Their existing budget could go far if they weren’t so obsessed with dumping cash onto any old scam that fitted with their high dependency vision for our country.

    1. After I’d finished the piece I got to wondering. Glen Peters started his firm in 2010, but did it do anything before the ‘Welsh Government’ stepped in to buy those houses at Glanrhyd earlier this year? Nothing mentioned on the website. Now that he’s been adopted by the system there’s plenty of work.

      What you have to remember is that these ‘initiatives’ from the ‘Welsh Government’ are nothing of the sort. Wales is full of shysters dreaming up ways of screwing the public purse. So they get together, dream up a scam, then approach the ‘Welsh Government’ with ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea if . . . ?’ The ‘Welsh Government’ jumps at the chance to appear ‘innovative’ and the money flows.

      That’s how we have the One Planet bollocks. It was dreamed up by the Greens, knocked into shape by Jane Davidson, who then used her influence with the Labour Party. Bingo! Legislation, funding, anything you want.

  2. Brychan

    There should be no ‘new housing’ in Burry Port, least of all for retired people. There is no NHS capacity for a local GP with the closure of one practice (Harbour View), and the other practice (Meddygfa Tywyn Bach) being overwhelmed by and NOT taking any further patient registrations.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-40030950
    http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=839&pid=36812

    The idea that Burry Port can cope with a huge influx of elderly English is quite bizarre. Existing residents (including new-borns to families of native residents) are already told if they need medical attention, “Go to Glangwili Hospital’ in Carmarthen.

  3. Wynne

    Excellent post Jac. My correspondence with Welsh Government, internal and external auditors and others is continuing regarding many of the points you have raised. Will keep you informed of the outcome.

  4. Wynne

    Copy of my enquiry sent to Pembrokeshire County Council 3 November below. Awaiting reply.

    To: Pembrokeshire County Council – Interim Development Manager – David Popplewell

    I refer to the above subject and attach the following documentation

    Shared Ownership - Wales Buyer's Guide published by Welsh Government, and
    Sale particulars prepared by John Francis Estate Agents, relating to Plot 27 Mill Bay Homes development site Cilgerran

    You will note, from the sale particulars, and from the link below that the Shared Ownership – Wales scheme is administered by Mill Bay Homes Ltd

    https://www.millbayhomes.co.uk/assisted-purchasing/

    I am advised by Welsh Government that Shared Ownership leasehold dwellings are classified as “intermediate housing” with the scheme available to Housing Associations, also known as Registered Social Landlords [R S Ls] as explained in the attached guide. As you are aware Mill Bay Homes Ltd [a private company and separate legal entity] was de-registered as R S L by Welsh Government 5 April 2017. Planning permission has not been granted for intermediate housing at Cilgerran. Planning permission has been granted for 29 open market housing and 1 social rented housing unit under a formal S.106 agreement with your Authority executed 18 July 2016.

    I would be grateful if you could therefore arrange to investigate to establish whether shared ownership leasehold dwellings are being sold by Mill Bay Homes Ltd to its parent Ateb [a part publicly funded R S L] with the freehold owned by Ateb, contrary to the planning permission granted for the site. The Ateb Group, on advice from their Chief Executive, declined to respond to enquiries on the subject.

    The Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Rebecca Evans A M, has overall responsibility for the administration of the Shared Ownership – Wales scheme. I would be grateful if you could update the Minister on the outcome of your investigation in due course. Thank you.

    Regards

    1. Dafis

      Nice letter Wynne. It should produce a substantial portion of evasive bullshit and obfuscation as the respondent will either be utterly ignorant of any rules but unwilling to declare such ignorance, or will be well aware that there is a breach of rules but is ill-equipped to create a cover story ( probably done above his pay grade). Nevertheless your tenacity does show up flaws which opposition parties seem utterly disinclined to expose.

    2. Remember when there were three choices – you either inherited a house or bought one with a mortgage; you rented privately; or else you had a council house? The only exceptions I recall were special housing for disabled ex-servicemen, retired musical hall turns, distressed gentlefolk, defrocked clergymen, and other groups.

      Now we still have private housing and private rented housing, but in the other sector, the third sector, it is unbelievably complicated. To begin with, we still have council-owned housing. Eleven out of the twenty-two local authorities still have their own stocks of social housing, but in every one of these council areas there is more than one housing association also operating. These are often competing with each other and duplicating each other’s work. With most of their funding coming from the public purse this is a truly horrendous waste of public money.

      In those council areas without their own stock there is the major housing association, this one being the one that inherited the council stock, and a host of smaller operators trying to get a slice of the action.

      Not only that, but these housing associations are now dividing and multiplying, setting up ‘subsidiaries’ that may or may not be independent, may or may not be private companies, may or may not be Registered Social Landlords.

      To confuse the picture even further, these housing associations and their subsidiaries can offer a confusing range of options for those wishing to rent or buy a home. And these options are often misleading, perhaps deliberately so. ‘Shared ownership’, for example, is often nothing more than a share of a lease, and you’d be amazed how many people – especially young people – don’t understand what a lease is, and how much it might eventually cost them.

      Why does it have to be so complicated, and so expensive? We have forty or fifty housing associations, each one with a CEO pulling down £100,000+ a year. And then there are the other senior officers in the £60,000+ bracket.

      This would be bad enough if housing associations did what most people think they do – provide social housing for Welsh people who can’t or don’t wish to buy. But they don’t. Because they’re locked into an Englandandwales system much of the money we give them is used to house English drug addicts in Lampeter, paedophile gangs in Kidwelly, ex-cons on the Costa Geriatrica.

      This is an insane, wasteful system that does not serve Wales. And it’s become worse under devolution.

      It’s why you’re often banging your head against a brick wall, Wynne. This system cannot be defended. And so, when you ask your penetrating questions you’re lied to, or they stonewall – because they can’t give honest answers.

      Honest answers would expose a system designed to weaken Wales both economically and socially.

      1. Wynne

        Yes Jac, I totally agree. I have just checked my notes and copied below the current position as I understand it following recent correspondence with Welsh Government. Whether the guidelines or regulations are being followed is another matter.

        On 6 March 2018 Rebecca Evans A M, Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Welsh Government announced changes, summarised below.

        Leasehold will not apply to new build other than under very specific circumstances
        Voluntary agreement with major developers [including Bellway, Redrow, Taylor Wimpy, Barratt Homes and Persimmon] that they will no longer offer houses for sale on a leasehold basis unless it is absolutely necessary.
        New criteria for Help-to-Buy – Wales.
        Developer to present genuine reason for a house to be marketed as leasehold.
        New lease agreement for houses and flats will have to comply with new minimum standards, as under:
        limiting the starting ground rent to a maximum of 0.1% of the property’s sale value
        any future increase in ground rent linked to RPI
        leases to run for a minimum of 125 years for flats and 250 years for houses
        legal obligation on house builders offering houses for sale under Help to Buy – Wales to meet these new conditions.
        Help to Buy – Wales “Conveyancer Accreditation Scheme”. National standards. Training delivered by Help to Buy – Wales.
        Same Help to Buy – Wales leasehold criteria for “Wales Property Development Fund” – affordable development loans to SME home builders.

        1. The whole idea of leasehold properties is an anachronism that belongs to the nineteenth century; but here we have a Labour administration, wishing to be seen as ‘progressive’, trying to phase it out with private companies, over which it has no control, but allowing it with housing associations, over which it has considerable control.

          It’s hypocrisy. Or another example of the tail wagging the dog, something we see all the time with housing associations.

      2. Brychan

        This blog article gives the impression that the policy of housing swamping of native population in favour of incomers, by using third sector organisations as an interlocker is a new phenomenon. Invented in Wales.

        It is not.

        The effect of this ‘third sector housing provision’ can be seen on page 35 of this document, which examines the county of Fermanagh and the role of ‘Northern Ireland Housing Trust’ during the 1960s.

        http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/crights/pdfs/fcra80.pdf

        The origin of the policy was many years prior, and included such stuff as “affordable units”, “shared ownership”, leasehold covenants, loaded “priority needs”, and “desirable private developments” as part of the deal. There was evidently a political agenda of who could access this housing, not overt, but underhanded by design.

        http://www.tara.tcd.ie/bitstream/handle/2262/3970/jssisiVolXVIXPart1_6072.pdf

        The question was asked (Gerrad Fitt) as to why the ‘public funded housing solution’ was not to replace existing poor housing in urban areas where it was needed, but mainly resulted in new builds in small towns in rural areas outside the reach of the native population, and the qualification criteria was loaded in favour of incomers.

        Good question.

        1. This looks interesting, Brychan. I’ll read these documents later.

          Though the “incomers” Gerry Fitt referred to is different to what we are talking about. Back then in NI it was about gerrymandering, which meant piling Catholics into big wards and ensuring Protestant majorities in smaller wards. It’s how a Catholic-majority city like Derry always had a Protestant-Unionist council.

          1. Brychan

            That was only part of the story with gerrymandering. In the 60s, you could not vote if you were not a ‘ratepayer’, so young nationalists who still lived in the parental home could not vote at all. In cases where there were extended families in public housing, not all had the vote. Favouring unionist families for housing and moving them into nationalist wards with new-builds was part of the gerrymandering process.

  5. Once again an interesting and important post that asks vital questions. Why on earth are we still in a situation where what is essentially speculative developments are still allowed? Seemingly all sorts of associated issues are ignored, such as the impact on the local environment in the widest sense, which includes the Welsh language and culture as well as that of impact on local road, healthcare and education infrastructure. Local housing for local needs only.

    As always Jac, you make some very valid comments, but I think you sometimes need to be careful in not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. None of the environmental, or even ‘rewilding’ aspects of government policy are of necessity negatives in terms of ordinary Welsh people, and in fact, as I’m sure you’ve already realised, if the interests of ordinary Welsh people were made paramount, then these sorts of policies would make huge sense. However, and here I think you’re right on the money, the devil is in the detail. Whilst an argument can be made that ordinary Welsh people do benefit from these policies, it is the result of a knock on and apparently rather arbitrary effect rather than by design, which of course seems to be expensive ‘greenwashing’ within the context of a colonialist system. Surely it makes perfect sense that local people’s housing should be provided using the most sustainable methods available, and using locally sourced materials wherever possible, and of course, local labour? Certainly it seems that the costings of housing is in need of investigation, as if those houses built at Glanrhyd were indeed sold at twice the cost of production, then there is indeed something seriously awry. A build cost of £75,000 per property seems reasonable, and with better production methods, could be reduced further, thus benefiting ordinary local people as it could mean lower cost housing for those who wish to buy, and lower rents for those who don’t. More genuinely local control is needed, and not control by blowins with their own colonialist agendas.

    The question of what is affordable housing is something that should be easy to define, but in practice, it isn’t, and it is argued that no housing is truly ‘affordable’ in that it requires a return to be made on investments, which means that decent housing is unaffordable to those on the lowest incomes. It’s a dilemma, and I always groan when I hear politicians and social housing providers mention ‘affordable’ housing as that invariably means that the housing so provided is unaffordable to those on low incomes. I’ve often thought that the costs of providing housing in the first place are somewhat open to question, as they often seem to be on the rather inflated side to me. Also, the system of financing social housing seems to be somewhat arcane. In the bad old days of council housing long term mortgages of sixty year or so on preferential terms, (basically guaranteed by central government) allowed housing to be provided by councils at rents that ordinary people could afford, without subsidy. However, this only works if the housing built is of a decent standard, and doesn’t have to be demolished prematurely because defective construction after half the mortgage period while the local authority is still paying for it. If housing is built to last, and financed with long term mortgages it becomes possible to provide decent housing at a rent that is reasonable, affordable and will result, at the end of the mortgage period in an asset that still has value. For those on low incomes considered too low to afford rents, simply increase their rates of pay to a liveable amount.

    Housing is in a mess, as you say, but I’m not sure that large scale mergers are really such a good idea. We know about Wales & West and how they were allowed to swallow up Cantref. Do we really want more of this? I personally don’t, though I do think some rationalisation would be wise, but make it more locally accountable, regionally based, and limited in size so that it can be democratised. This would go some way to controlling what housing is built where, why, and who gets to live in it. However, I know from experience that the powers that be don’t really like it when tenants have what they consider, too much power, as too many sensible policies tend to be introduced, such as considerations of local need. Tenants are also far more focused on reducing costs, and fostering increased involvement as it not only fosters a greater sense of community and ownership, but keeps costs in check too.

    CEOs of housing associations are paid rather a lot of money, and the formula is of course, the bigger the HA, the bigger the CEOs salary. At least with smaller, more locally focused HAs the CEO salary level would be lower. Though I have often wondered if there is any real purpose in having a CEO in the first place, as I’ve seen organisations from HAs to local councils managing perfectly well for long periods without a CEO. To me they seem about as much use as the fairy on a Christmas tree.

    In terms of general housing policy, then I think there needs to be a national strategy that only allows those who work in Wales, or who have lived in Wales for five years to buy property. The south east of Wales is more or less set to become a no-go area for most Welsh people now that the toll on the Severn Bridge are about to be abolished – personally I would have doubled them, and diverted the surplus to funding things such public transport in Wales. Keeping, and maybe increasing the tolls on the bridge would have had a beneficial effect on property prices that are already increasing at a crazy rate in Cardiff, (£200,000 + for a modest 3 bed terrace is nuts) and no doubt in the M4 corridor to the east.

    1. Let’s look at the environment first. I have been a nature lover all my life, and I often fantasise about what an area would look like if humans were removed, and nature could be allowed to reclaim it. I saw a fascinating report not so long ago on Top Gear (of all programmes) when the team visited Fukushima. Similar films on Chernobyl intrigue me. This is genuine ‘re-wilding’, when you simply remove the human population and let Nature take it’s course.

      But what’s planned with Summit to Sea and other scams is the ‘environment’ being used to displace us and replace us with those who covet our land. And it wouldn’t even be genuine re-wilding, it’ll be some tossers’ interpretation of what a country they know nothing about should look like. Carefully managed to their advantage.

      As for social housing, the more complex and confusing it gets, the more attractive returning social housing to local authorities becomes. Either that, or a single, national social housing agency, anything other than the current system. Not only would it be simpler and cheaper if the role was returned to local authorities, but I also guarantee that such a move would create jobs in areas where they’re needed, which isn’t always the case with housing associations.

      For example, soon after Gwynedd’s housing stock was taken over by Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd that body put the maintenance contract out to Lovell who started shipping in sub-contractors from Wigan and God knows where else. I wrote about it a few times.

      But let’s agree that the present system is broke, and when it’s broke, it should be fixed.

    2. Dave Brooker

      So if only Welsh people are allowed to buy houses in Wales, what happens to industry which relies on skilled workers, and who will compensate the Welsh people who won’t be able to find buyers for their property??

      1. A few points here, ‘Dave’.
        Where I live, most of the English buying property are looking to retire. They deprive Welsh people who are already working of a home.
        As for compensation, if legislation was introduced to limit such sales there might be a period of readjustment, but eventually the market would be attuned to local circumstances. And this has to be the objective.
        Is this you, ‘Dave’? And are you the “fat useless turd” referred to here?
        There seem to be a lot of people out there who don’t like you, Dave, and not just your ex. You fit the bill for those who come here with anti-Welsh attitudes.

        1. Dave Brooker

          But in most of Wales there are more houses for sale than buyers, so if people choose to move to wales, is that really a problem?

          Second homes I can see as a problem, but the others?

          So where will you draw the line, no non Welsh at all, just skilled ones, just young ones, no hippies?

          1. Wrexhamian

            If you can’t see the damage to Welsh nationhood that uncontrolled English colonisation is doing to Wales, then you’re in denial. Get used to the fact that many people in this country now want it brought under control.
            If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll be aware by now that house building in Wales is not intended to meet local needs but the needs of England’s surplus population and those who want to escape from overcrowded, crime-ridden cities. It’s sad that England is in such a mess, but it isn’t Wales’s problem, and it’s allowed to continue because we don’t yet have the sovereignty to prevent it.

  6. Cllr Alun Lenny

    “Plaid Cymru really hasn’t got a clue. They don’t even understand what they’re giving planning permission for.” Really? As Chair of the Planning Committee in Sir Gâr, and as I’ve been named ref. Burry Port housing, let’s look at the facts. 1. There is great demand for housing in Burry Port by people on the council’s housing list. These homes could be filled many times over by LOCAL people. 2. Although 20% of the 103 house development are designated ‘Affordable’ as demanded by Carmarthenshire County Council’s policy (i.e. homes that will be retained as affordable dwellings for sale or rent in future. That’s the definition, as you ask Jac), ALL the houses are, in fact, an affordable mix of homes for rent or low-cost ownership, as they’ll be build by a Housing Association – i.e. Pobl Group. 3. All but two of the houses are semi-detached and a mix of eight different types. It’s a tragic fact that about 1,000 of our young people in Sir Gâr go down the M4 every year and very few come back. This Plaid-led council has made retaining our young people in their communities, or attracting others back to Sir Gâr, a priority. They need jobs and affordable ‘first step’ housing. To that end, we set a 5-year target of facilitating 1,000 such homes. After just 18 months, we’ve already crossed the 500 mark. We’re about to embark on building 60 council houses – for the first time since Thatcher’s government brought in the sell-off policy. But it’s not just about building new estates. The council is targeting individual houses in town and village streets that have been empty for decades and bringing them back into use. Most are semi-derelict and renovating them gives work to local builders, plumbers, electricians etc. Over 180 such houses were renovated last year. Hand-in-hand with that goes regeneration, schools and leisure. Despite the Tory party’s savage austerity cuts in public funding year-on-year for a decade, meekly handed down by a toothless Labour government in Cardiff, Plaid in Sir Gâr is spending many tens of millions of pounds on capital projects under those three headings. As a result, there is already evidence that young people, especially those who want to start families, are coming back to our county. Just to set the record straight…

    1. You can build all the homes you like, but until you bring in legislation that restricts them to local people you are just building homes for anybody. ‘Affordable’ only means marginally below market price.

      And if you’re relying on the Pobl group allocating their properties to locals, Pobl includes Grwp Gwalia which housed a gang of paedophiles from London just down the road in Kidwelly. Remember? So put not your faith in Pobl, Alun. Housing associations give priority to ‘those in need’, who might be paedophiles from London, ex-cons from Birmingham, problem families from Stoke, or drug addicts from God knows where.

      I’m glad to hear that CCC is building new homes and tackling the blight of abandoned houses. Though if you’re reduced to arguing that these properties mean work for local builders, plumbers, electricians, etc., then you could say the same thing about holiday homes.

      Because if it’s council housing, housing association properties, or derelict homes brought back into use, the big question is – What are the allocation priorities? Do genuine locals get priority over those who’d like to move on a whim or those that some area in England would like to dump?

      And when it comes to open market housing, does Plaid Cymru intend to oppose building for which there is clearly no local demand, such as Burry Port has seen in recent years?

      And while I’ve got your attention, what is your boss Mark James up to with Cartrefi Croeso? Does he tell you?

      1. Dafis

        He buys them all a nice lunch every so often ( recharged to expenses !) and talks about anything NOT connected with his “private” activities. And they love it.

          1. Dafis

            Nawr te,tyna dy fis mas o dy bart ol a rho atebion gonest i’r cwestynau ma Brychan yn eu gofyn isod. Os gwneu di falle bydd dy enw da yn cael ei warchod.

      2. Cllr Alun Lenny

        Jac – regarding your questions in bold. The Housing Letting system has been changed as far as the law allows to give the maximum regard to local people or those with local connections. This is from the council’s Allocations Policy: “We have two connection factors used when prioritising an allocation, which relate to a person’s requirement for that specific vacant property.
        Local connection – the applicant has a connection to the County of Carmarthenshire
        Community connection – the applicant has a connection to the community area that the property is situated
        Local Connection to Carmarthenshire
        Local Connection is defined in Section 81 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. A person has a local connection with the area because:
         the person is, or in the past was, normally resident there, and the residence is or was of the person’s own choice.
         the person is employed there
         of family associations, or
         because of special circumstances
        Applicants who do not have a local connection with Carmarthenshire will still be accepted onto the housing register. However priority will be reduced.”
        I dispute your comment about Burry Port, Jac. As I said earlier, the local demand far exceeds available social housing. The new LDP, now being prepared, will be very much led by local evidence, as it should be. The present LDP (drawn up by the previous administration) set the ludicrous target of 15,000 new houses – of which less than half have been built. The new projection for 2018-33 is likely be less than 10,000, with housing linked, as far as possible, to employment. The Plaid Cymru group in Sir Gâr is also drawing up new and robust planning policies we want to see included in the revised LDP to help people in rural areas to live and work in their communities. The response from the Labour Welsh Govt has been very weak. When I asked Lesley Griffiths AM, the Cabinet Secretary who’s responsible for Planning, if her government would work with local authorities to develop a legal mechanism we could use to measure the impact of housing developments on the Welsh language in communities, her answer was ‘no.’

        1. The ‘local connections’ you quote are worthless. Someone could live in a bed & breakfast for a week and qualify as ‘local’. Devalued further with, “Applicants who do not have a local connection with Carmarthenshire will still be accepted onto the housing register”. Truth is, anybody can apply for, and qualify for, social housing in Carmarthenshire. And anywhere else in wales.

          You also say, “As I said earlier, the local demand far exceeds available social housing.” Yes, and it always will exceed available supply when just about anybody qualifies. Housing associations, like the rest of the third sector, are in the business of ripping off the public purse to build up empires and provide cushy jobs for an army of shysters.

          But they cannot afford to be successful. Because once the 97 ‘homelessness’ charities in Wales start reducing the numbers of homeless then their funding will have to fall – so they ship in ‘clients’ from outside of Wales. And it’s exactly the same motivation for housing associations, which means that there must always be locals waiting for social housing in order to justify the funding continuing.

          It’s a racket, Alun, run by shysters and supported by the Labour Party because it creates thousands of jobs for Labour supporters and gives the impression that public money is being well spent.

          And of course, higher up the food chain, it’s welcomed and supported because this system helps colonise and Anglicise Wales.

    2. Brychan

      As you say Alun “1,000 of our young people in Sir Gâr go down the M4 every year and very few come back” And “about to embark on building 60 council houses”.

      This means that a greater proportion of the salary from a ‘local’ occupant of one of these council houses will be paid in rent. How are they are then able to save up for a deposit should they wish to get onto the housing ladder? It’s evidently just a temporary holding as the only option if, subsequently, they want to increase their income with a better paid job is to….errr… go down the M4.

      Surely, if the occupant of the new council house could enter into a ‘lease purchase’ arrangement with the council, then no only will they start buying the property, brick by brick, getting with a stake in the housing market in Sir Gâr, but also the council has an index linked income that can be invested in building MORE council houses. It’s also the case that once a resident has an ‘interest’ in a property or the whole estate, then this reduces anti-social behaviour and creates real ‘communities’.

      I seem to remember an (ex) Plaid Cymru AM (McEvoy) making this very point in the Senedd, and was expelled from the party for his troubles, even though he actually voted with the Plaid group on an outright ban, supporting Labour, on council house equity release. Children (the next generation (who in Sir Gâr will be Welsh speaking) can also inherit owned property, but not so with a bog standard council tenancy. Therefore the “go down the M4” option is just passed on to the next generation.

      Plaid Cymru are happy to create ‘poor ghettos for Welshies’, prop up Labour, with the best housing being snapped up by incomers. Ein Gwlad want to create a prosperous native population with a real interest (including their home) for the future of Wales.

      Questions…

      Why does English granny staying in an 11-month occupancy arrangement in a static at Burry Port count as a ‘local connection’ for access to ‘affordable housing’ for her extended family?

      Why do ‘veterans’ from anywhere in the UK get ‘priority’ under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, when no such priority applies in England?

      Why is ‘Pobl’ housing association allowed to enter into commercial arrangements for lettings as a poach of ‘clients’ from wealthier local authorities, usually in England?

      Why has does Cyngor Sir Gâr sign up to the ‘special circumstances’ as you mention for the resettlement of offenders (most from England) administered by the Home Office?

      If you cannot answer these questions on here, Cllr Lenny please send them on a postcard from your home in Carmarthen or alternatively, sent from the FIVE private properties you helped with a mortgage deposit (namely one on Heol Peniel, one at Rhydargaeau, at Hafod Cwnin, and two properties in Llansteffan) for your own family. Would that work with a council house with no equity arrangement?

        1. Dafis

          Where’s the reply then ? Was it unprintable ? or has the boy gone all shy on us ? Silence speaks volumes.

      1. Alun Lenny

        Regarding the five properties (for the record Brychan): one is our home in Carmarthen. The others are owned by my mother, my brother’s family, my sister, and my daughter and her husband. I only own and pay a mortgage on one. If you understood anything at all about ‘declaration of interest’ you’d know that councillors have to do this in the interests of transparency e.g. if planning applications impact on any member’s family or close friends. O ran sylwadau Dafis, ma’ nhw’n rhy blentynaidd i’w hateb.

        1. Dafis

          A ydym i ddod i’r casgliad for ateb y 4 cwestiwn a ofynwyd gan Brychan am eich polisiau sy’n berthnasol i reoleiddio adeiladu yn yr awdurdod yn ormod o waith ichi, neu a oes genych agwedd hunanol hyblug at atebolrwydd, neu a yw’r cwestynau yma hefyd yn rhy blentynaidd ichi ? Dyma nhw eto, a bydd yn ddiddorol darllen eich atebion manwl.

          Why does English granny staying in an 11-month occupancy arrangement in a static at Burry Port count as a ‘local connection’ for access to ‘affordable housing’ for her extended family?

          Why do ‘veterans’ from anywhere in the UK get ‘priority’ under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, when no such priority applies in England?

          Why is ‘Pobl’ housing association allowed to enter into commercial arrangements for lettings as a poach of ‘clients’ from wealthier local authorities, usually in England?

          Why has does Cyngor Sir Gâr sign up to the ‘special circumstances’ as you mention for the resettlement of offenders (most from England) administered by the Home Office?

        2. Brychan

          You condescending tone is noted, Cllr Lenny.

          As is your underestimation of the intelligence of the people of Carmarthenshire and the usefulness of the title deed record at the land registry providing suitable chronology. If only your admirable adherence to ‘‘declarations of interest’ were reflected by Labour town councillors in Cydweli. That is truly bizarre, including sub-letting of social housing for purposes of candidacy of relatives in local elections.

          May I assume that your failure to answer my questions is a choice of appropriate forum of reply, and you have taken onboard the issues raised?

  7. Wrexhamian

    In fairness to Alun Lenny, if what he says is true, then the Sir Gâr Plaid Cymru group are pissing into the wind in their attempts to prioritise local housing needs over settler allocations because Cardiff Bay (and possibly Whitehall) have made it impossible for Welsh local authorities to exercise any control over RSLs.

    And I’m confused as to whether Lesley Griffiths is saying ‘No’ to factoring the Welsh language into LDPs because she is against factoring it in or because as things stand it’s illegal for her to do so. Alun may take encouragement, however, from Bangor’s success in rejecting unwanted private housebuilding that would impact negatively on the Welsh language in the city.

    RSLs are a different kettle of fish, and in effect a law unto themselves, courtesy of the WAG. RSLs need local authority scrutiny and control. Plaid Cymru could and should make this a manifesto commitment. A few years down the line, when things are even more desperate and if Ein Gwlad takes off, they’ll be wishing they had done so.

    1. Stan

      EX-COUNCILLOR. Since May 2017. WELSH LABOUR in case anyone is wondering. One of their better ones in Neath Port Talbot, allegedly. No wonder we’re in such a fucking state.

    1. Wynne

      Are you offering an “intelligent” contribution to this debate. I have noted that most one sentence contributions are from an anonymous source.

        1. Wynne

          He must be shy. Perhaps someone should tell him to stop using Cllr. or perhaps he thinks that he is still representing his community.

  8. Dafis

    Your tweet in response to Eifion – “England is dumping on Wales as many as she can of the decrepit, the deranged, the disabled, the delinquent and the dependent.” – is an accurate, succinct summary of the current situation. No wonder our Health service and Care service are falling apart under the overload. Law&Order and Justice will be the next to go pop along with Education and Social Services ( the bit dealing with dysfunctional family units)

  9. R. Tredwyn

    The Welsh government has belatedly given local authorities the power to levy a surcharge or higher council tax rate on second homes – something have long supported. Yet, I understand that Gwynedd, where 10 per cent of the housing stock is second homes, has declined to use this power. Can that be right? If so, can’t blame WG this time Jac. What’s wrong with Plaid-led Gwynedd?

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