Housing in Wales

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

The title tells you what this week’s article is about. I’m going to look at how the picture has changed in the past few years.

THE BIG PICTURE

Obviously, there are different types of housing, from mansions like Jac o’ the North Towers to more modest owner-occupied properties; then we have social rent properties, and properties rented from private landlords.

So let’s start by looking at how types of tenure have changed over the past two decades. (The year up to March 31, 2001 is the earliest I can find on the StatsWales website.)

The table I’ve drawn up is fairly self-explanatory. ‘Registered Social Landlord’ (RSL) is of course the official term for housing associations.

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The headline figure is that there are 163,067 more dwellings or housing units in 2020 than there were in 2001. Though in the same period the population rose from 2,910,232 to 3,152,879, while the average household size fell from 2.36 to 2.26.

In fact, if we multiply the total number of housing units by the average household size we arrive at a figure of 3,248,901.42. Almost a hundred thousand more than the population estimate. But of course calculations are complicated by people living in care homes, prisons and other institutions. And then there are holiday homes. And properties that have just been abandoned, where it’s often difficult to track the owner.

So, all things considered – and without taking my socks off to do some really serious figuring! – we have roughly the same availability of housing in relation to demand as we had twenty years ago. Maybe things are worse.

Something else we can extract from the table is that in 2001 19% of Welsh properties were social rents, whereas the figure today is just 16%.

But perhaps the biggest change has been the doubling in the percentage of properties now rented from private landlords.

If current trends continue then very soon more people, more families, will rent from private landlords than from councils and housing associations combined. This of course is what the Conservatives want, but why is it happening in ‘progressive’ Wales?

SOCIAL HOUSING

In 2001 we had 242,853 units of social housing. By 2020 this had fallen to 229,902, a decrease of 12,951. Found in this table.

Partly explained by 34,829 units being sold in this period under the Right to Buy legislation introduced in 1980 by the first Thatcher government, with this later supplemented by Right to Acquire.

Though offset by the building of 21,878 social rented housing units in the same period. Just over 1,000 a year.

Right to Acquire is Englandandwales legislation introduced by the Blair government and in operation from 18 January, 2005. Explained more fully here.

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At this point I should tell you that not all sales of social housing are accounted for by Right to Buy and Right to Acquire because this table tells us there have also been sales of “non-social housing”. Though I don’t understand why the figure for this category is only shown from 2013 – 2014. Though there’s certainly been a steady increase since then.

Building just over one thousand social housing units a year must be considered a failure after two decades of socialist administrations in Cardiff Bay. Especially when we remember that in 1979 – 1980 (immediately before Right to Buy was introduced) Welsh local authorities built 3,322 new council homes. (RSLs built a further 377.)

And a thousand a year looks even less impressive when we remember that in the period of devolution a couple of billion pounds in capital grant funding has been given to an ever-expanding galaxy of housing associations.

In the past five years alone, £574 million pounds of Social Housing Grant (SHG) has been paid to housing associations. Wales & West, Labour’s favourite, has seen £61m of it.

SHG is not the only capital grant paid. There’s also the Housing Finance Grant.

I’ve drawn up a table for SHG payments you can view by clicking here. It’s quite a big table, so please have patience.

(I should add that while the bottom line is correct I can’t vouch for every figure in every column. I may have made a mistake or two in transcribing them. So here are the figures I received.)

While the amount paid in SHG from 2015 – 2016 to 2019 – 2020 was 20% more than for the previous five years the stock of social rented housing increased in the same period by less than 2%.

We know that housing association executives like to pay themselves big salaries, and drive fancy company cars . . . shiny new offices are a must . . . and how can they miss out on all the conferences and other jollies, but these could never account for the increasing gulf between funding received and social housing built.

Something else must be going on.

If nothing else, Wales is following England in providing less social rented housing. So much for Rhodri Morgan’s, “clear red water”. So much for, “Welsh solutions for Welsh problems”.

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The Tories came to power in 2010, and that’s when the decline started. Clearly, the Labour management team in Corruption Bay is following Conservative directives when it comes to social rented housing.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

If we take the period 2014 – 2015 to 2019 – 2020 we see that it covers important changes in the way RSLs are regulated, and also how they operate.

I’m sure most people didn’t notice, but in the past five years Welsh housing associations were originally private bodies, were then made public, before being privatised again.

It was the Office for National Statistics that decided they should be public bodies due to the amount of public funding they were receiving. Plus the political involvement. But making them public bodies transferred their debts to the public ledger and so the parliaments in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff quickly privatised them again.

It’s explained clearly and succinctly in the article below from Inside Housing, just click on it to make it readable. (Here’s a link to the original article.)

I bet you’re thinking . . . ‘If housing associations are now private companies, why are they still getting lashings of public funding?’ Funding that, as we’ve seen, has greatly increased since they were ‘re-privatised’!

The answer is that they’ve branched out into building private housing.

To such an extent that, in addition to the public funding, our housing associations are also taking out private loans with various financial institutions.

Here’s a report from May of United Welsh of Caerphilly, which has just 6,000 properties, borrowing £50m from Scottish Widows.

In July we learnt Coastal Housing Group of Swansea had entered into a £250m ‘refinancing’ deal with Aviva Investors.

In August, Cadwyn Housing Association of Cardiff did a deal with Westbourne Capital Partners of Chicago.

And other housing associations have done similar deals with organisations much sharper than them in the ways of the financial world. I do hope they’ve read the small print.

Though I suppose the only real collateral housing associations have is their housing stock. If they default, does this mean that Welsh social housing stock gets taken over by lenders? Or will the ‘Welsh Government’ step in with yet more money?

Talking of the ‘Welsh Government’, if RSLs need money for investment, why can’t they go to the Development Bank of Wales (DBW), which is already lending to other builders, many from over the border?

So let’s recap. Housing associations, now private bodies, still receive increasing amounts of public funding. Yet they also enter into arrangements with financial institutions around the world. And let’s not forget that the other major source of income – perhaps the major source – is rents from the housing stock they own. Most of which came free as stock transfers from local authorities.

Another noteworthy feature in this period is that most if not all of our housing associations have set up subsidiary companies, or companies that are not subsidiaries but still part of the group.

SUBSIDIARIES, PARTNERS, PRIVATE HOUSING

An example would be the relationship between Ateb (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing Association) and Mill Bay Homes Ltd (MBH). The latter, despite being a separate company, is a “wholly controlled subsidiary company of Ateb Group Ltd”.

The arrangement is that MBH builds and sells market properties and the profits go to parent company Ateb to build social housing or ‘affordable homes’. Which might be fine if Mill Bay Homes had its own money . . . but it hasn’t, it relies on loans from Ateb.

Which means that the ‘Welsh Government’ funds a RSL to build social housing but the money in fact goes to a subsidiary to build open market homes (that most locals may not be able to afford) with a fraction of the original money returning to the parent company.

What is the point of such a system?

While Mill Bay Homes is a company registered with Companies House the Ateb Group is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.

As we’ve seen with other housing associations, the Ateb Group has also borrowed money recently. Last month from the Principality Building Society. Back in July it was a loan of £18m from bLEND Funding PLC.

Officially, a cash security trust deed.

Click to enlarge

Eighteen bloody million! How much does a relatively small, rural housing association need? It’s already getting money from the ‘Welsh Government’, and seems to have stopped providing social rented housing.

A visit to the Ateb Group website turns up what you see below. Quite clearly, Ateb is now a private house builder with social rented accommodation an afterthought.

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Click on ‘homes for sale’ and you of course get taken to the Mill Bay Homes website.

And there seem to be some rum doings between the two.

I am indebted to Wynne Jones in Cardigan for these documents from the Land Registry website (from which I have redacted a few names in the second).

A property on this development in Cilgerran (Ceredigion) was built by MBH, with money borrowed from Ateb, then sold to Ateb for £164,950 in October 2019; the following month Ateb sold a 125-year lease on the property for £57,733.

What business model is this?

Mill Bay Homes makes no secret of the fact that it’s punting for retirees and ‘investors’. The latter category will include Buy-to-Rent landlords, and whaddya know – one of the new Cilgerran properties is already being advertised for rent.

Plot 3 at Maes Rheithordy, Cilgerran, is being rented for £670 per calendar month through Jac y Do Letting of Blaenporth.

A similar arrangement to that between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes exists in Gwynedd between Adra (formerly Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd), which took over Gwynedd council’s housing stock some ten years ago, and its subsidiary, Medra Cyf.

A few days ago Adra put out this puff about building 1,200 new homes across ‘North Wales’. The “housing crisis” referred to is perhaps the lack of housing for commuters in the A55 corridor.

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The subsidiary that will be doing much of the building is Medra . . . with a loan from Adra.

This loan between a Welsh RSL and its subsidiary was arranged by London law firm Trowers & Hamlins. I’ve seen that name in other loans I’ve looked at. Are there no lawyers in Wales?

Of course there are, so who’s directing them to that company?

Also worth highlighting from recent years, in addition to the proliferation of subsidiaries, is the strange partnerships we see being forged.

For an example of this we stay in the north, with Cartrefi Conwy, based in Abergele.

I’ve written about this lot a few times. Below you’ll read what I had to say earlier this year, in Housing Associations, a broken model. The Byzantine network of ‘partners’ also throws up a mystery investor.

“Cartrefi Conwy set up a subsidiary in 2015 called Creating Enterprise CIC (Community Interest Company). Then, in May 2018, Creating Enterprise went into partnership with Brenig Developments Ltd to form Calon Homes. (Assets at 31 May 2019 £37,853.)

From the Creating Enterprise CIC accounts for y/e 31 March 2019. Click to enlarge

As I wrote back in November: “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.”

When we look at the directors for Brenig Developments Ltd we find Mark Timothy Parry and Howard Rhys Vaughan. Both are also directors of Brenig Homes Ltd.”

Another horse out of the Brenig stable is Brenig Construction Ltd. Just another local building firm, run by local people . . . so impeccably local in fact that it could have come from League of Gentlemen.

But then, in December last year, a new director joined, a man who might have been taking his life in his hands if he’d turned up in the Royston Vasey shop.

I’m referring now to Yin Han, a Chinese businessman, presumably bringing a lot of yuan. For when I say Chinese businessman I do not mean that he hails from Hong Kong or Taiwan. Yin Han is a resident and citizen of the People’s Republic of China.

How did Yin Han and Brenig Construction find each other? What do we know about him? I guarantee he did not get involved with Brenig Construction without permission from back home. And that means the Communist Party.

These subsidiaries and partners, together with the loans and investment, are needed to build private housing for sale on the open market.

But housing associations are now private entities, so why do they need subsidiaries and partners to build open market housing? Surely they could do it in their own names?

Of course they could, but that would make it too obvious and probably jeopardise the public funding. So we have this charade of public money for social housing being given to RSLs and then filtered through intermediaries to build private housing.

And the ‘Welsh Government’ is a willing party to this deception.

‘AFFORDABLE HOUSING’

As a student of history, I’ve always loved Palmerston’s quote: “Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business – the Prince Consort, who is dead – a German professor, who has gone mad – and I, who have forgotten all about it.”

It comes to mind when I see the term ‘affordable housing’. Because there’s a great deal of confusion as to what it means.

It’s important to get a definition because it’s what RSLs now claim to be building, and what the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ is funding.

Is the ‘Welsh Government’ really proud of these figures? And ‘Rent to own’ in fact offers people a share of a lease! Click to enlarge

When I contacted the ‘Welsh Government’ I was referred to a publication wherein was found . . .

“The concept of affordability is generally defined as the ability of households or potential households to purchase or rent property that satisfies the needs of the household without subsidy (further guidance is provided in the Local  Housing Market Assessment Guide) 7 This could be based on an assessment of the ratio of household income or earnings to the price of property to buy or rent available in the open market in the required local housing market area.”

Which is interesting, and for two reasons.

If the concept of affordability is based on what local people on local wages can afford, then why is ‘affordable housing’ not reserved for those same local people? I ask because all the term means in practice is that a few properties in a development are labelled ‘affordable’ – but still put on the open market.

And if a small number of properties in a development are classed as ‘affordable’ then it must follow that the majority of the properties are regarded as unaffordable to most locals. So why are we building so many properties – with public funding! – beyond the reach of most local buyers?

The woolly term ‘affordable housing’ is just a fig leaf for the ‘Welsh Government’ and RSLs to disguise the fact that very little social housing is being delivered.

We are encouraged to believe that ‘affordable housing’ is for local people, or that it means social rented properties. Wrong.

CONCLUSION

This system, as I’ve argued before, is broken. It is broken because it consumes vast amounts of Welsh public funding for little or no Welsh public benefit.

Another cause for concern is that just as many third sector bodies are agencies of the Labour Party a similar picture emerges with housing associations.

In fact, housing associations and third sector bodies operate hand in glove, with the former housing the disruptive ‘clients’ of the latter, many of whom have been shipped into Wales. It’s collaboration like this that contributes to the problems we’ve looked at in Tyisha, Llanelli.

‘Welsh’ Labour’s little empire; stuffed with cronies and others dependent on political patronage and public handouts.

Take Wales & West, which I’ve referred to as Labour’s favourite. The CEO is Anne Hinchey, whose hubby Graham is a Labour Councillor in Cardiff. This explains why Wales & West has pulled down £100m in Social Housing Grant alone in the past decade.

And yet, let us remember that the reason the Office for National Statistics decided to put housing associations into the public sector was because there was so much governmental control!

As the June 2018 article from Inside Housing I reproduced above put it,

“In a letter to the Welsh Government sent yesterday, the ONS left open the possibility to reclassify individual associations as public should the level of state control increase.”

A strong case could be made for reclassifying a number of Welsh housing associations. Certainly Wales & West.

Where do we go from here?

I suggest that it starts with making it clear we do not want housing associations to build properties for sale to Home Counties retirees in Pembrokeshire, or to Manchester commuters in Denbighshire.

The sole duty of Welsh housing associations must be to deliver homes to Welsh people at sales prices or rents WE can afford.

If they are unable or unwilling to fulfil that role then I believe we should let our local councils provide social rented housing. Ensure they are well enough funded to provide decent accommodation to any and all local people wanting it. And make strong local connections the over-riding consideration in allocating those properties.

Then cut all funding to housing associations, which are, after all, private companies. Let them borrow from private lenders – as they are already doing – and cease being a burden on the public purse.

Whatever is decided, the present system is broken. Changes must be made. Even if you think this doesn’t affect you, just think what we could do with the money saved!

♦ end ♦

 

 




58 thoughts on “Housing in Wales

  1. Steffan

    Thanks for the statistical breakdowns in this complex area of public policy. I quite agree with your deconstruction of the term ‘affordable housing’ as the mealy-mouthed, ambiguous nonsense that it is. ‘Going forward, affordable housing is the answer’ is the sort of guff that too many politicians, of both local and national hue, have got away with for too many years.

    1. I suspect the message coming from London is that housing associations are to cut back on the provision of social housing, with the rented sector being taken over by private landlords.

      Housing associations are also expected to take out loans and behave like private companies in order to bump up the figure for new housing built. And the ‘Welsh Government’ is happy to fall into line because the legislation it’s introduced – especially sprinkler systems in all new properties – is deterring the volume house builder companies because it eats into their profits.

      In fact, pushing RSLs into the private housing sector may even be an initiative of the WG. (Difficult though it is to say ‘initiative’ and ‘Welsh Government’ in the same sentence.)

  2. Wynne

    Jac. You refer to the Mill Bay Homes development site at Cilgerran and ask a good question. “What business model is this”. What is becoming clear is a breakdown in communication between Welsh Government [who allocate grant funding for social housing] and the Local Authority Pembrokeshire County Council who should be monitoring delivery of affordable [social] housing in accordance with adopted LDP allocation. From my experience, once planning permission has been granted, no monitoring takes place. Developers are allowed to breach planning controls with impunity. I guarantee that Welsh Government statistics on the delivery of affordable homes is not synchronised with Local Authority statistics. It begs the question, who, if anyone, is in control. My correspondence on the subject is continuing. Thanks for the post which helps to explain the bigger picture in Wales.

    1. Thanks, Wynne, but even without stringent monitoring the ‘Welsh Government’ cannot be unaware of the situation.

      Though talking of Ateb, I was amazed to see the £18m loan. What has Ateb got planned that would require that kind of funding?

        1. That might explain it. Though the loan was taken out by Ateb. If the Sageston development is the answer then there’ll be no social rented housing and few if any ‘affordable’ homes.

  3. Robert Morgan

    Hang on the Conservatives has been blamed for the housing shortage, the assembly was formed in 1999, just take a look at some the planing approvals being passed, must include affordable housig, must include amenities, and very large approvals must include (sometimes) shool or money for a school. All these must are driving prices up
    So what is affordable housing?

    1. The way it works is that councils say to developers, “There must be an element of ‘affordable housing’ on this site or else we will not give planning permission”. Developer says, “Sod that, we’ll give you money instead”. And that’s what often happens, explained in this table from StatsWales.

      1. Wynne

        And, as with the Templeton site by Mill Bay Homes, the developer argues that it will not be financially viable to develop the site if they have to provide the affordable homes allocated in the Council’s adopted LDP. The local planning authority accept the developer’s assessment with the result that only market housing is provided.

        1. Wrexhamian

          As Jac says, we shouldn’t be funding RSLs when they’re playing the market, but the private sector also needs reigning in.

          Meeting Wales’s housing needs shouldn’t be conditioned by the need to give private housebuilding firms a fat profit. The right of private housebuilders to apply for planning permission for large-scale new build should be abolished. Local authorities should be telling THEM what, when and where to build, how many houses to build, and putting the emphasis on local affordability.The building firms are calling the shots. Appealing to the Planning Inspectorate should also be abolished because it will nearly always decide in favour of the housebuilders in the case of Wales.

          Housebuilding in the private sector needs a complete overhaul.

    1. David Robins

      Not how it works. Housebuilders anticipate the add-ons in their cost calculations and then deduct them from the price they offer the landowner. The land cost is always what gives, until you reach a point where it’s not worth the landowner bringing the site to market, or it has negative value, e.g. because of contamination.

      Because new housing coming to market is a tiny part of the total housing market locally, the price of new housing is set by the price of equivalent second-hand housing competing with it, with a small premium for newness. If the new housing went above that, it wouldn’t sell. Housebuilders refer to the absorption rate, the rate at which completions can be offloaded. There’s no incentive to build faster, because swamping the market lowers the price, and the carefully calculated profit. So they landbank the planning permissions and release them gradually. Private sector completions per year have been broadly stable since 1960. The much higher total completions for the post-war period to 1980 were the result of public sector activity overriding market reluctance.

      People who think housebuilders shouldn’t have to pay for roads, parks, schools, etc – the need for which arises only or mainly because of the additional population their development introduces – should say who should pay instead. Councils used to pay, because (a) they were better funded in those days, and (b) they often owned the site so could sell it to a developer at a price that allowed for the cost to the council of providing the social amenities.

      Affordable housing is something different to social amenities. You might think there’s no reason to require a private developer to pay for meeting somebody else’s housing needs. In theory, you’d be right. In practice, AH got started in the 1980s because social housing providers were being outbid in the land market. The AH route was found to be the only way left for any significant amount of social housing to get built. A court ruling then concluded that a community’s need for social housing could be material when considering the mix of housing in planning applications.

      The only end to the scam is a revived public sector housebuilding programme designed around meeting proven local needs. Along with this, one might consider a Land Value Tax that would put the boot up developers reluctant to get moving.

      1. And if developers want to avoid bringing down the value of the other properties being built with ‘on-site’ affordable housing then they can pay cash to the local authority for affordable housing elsewhere. But if the developer can persuade the council that to do so would make the project financially unviable then the payment can be reduced or withdrawn altogether. Though a lot depends on who you know.

        My attention has been drawn to a new development in Penarth, where 21 luxury flats are being built on the site of an old garage near the town centre. But the developer has apparently persuaded the council to drastically reduce the amount originally demanded. The developer is a former captain of Cardiff Blues. Historically, being connected with Cardiff Rugby Club, later the Blues, has resulted in a charmed life after retirement from the game.

        Here’s a recent report.Penarth flats

        What I find odd about this is that the Vale of Glamorgan is normally very strict about getting its money-in-kind for affordable housing. This explains why it has more cash in the piggy bank than any other authority.As you’ll see from this table produced by StatsWales.

        1. Wynne

          The year end totals published in Stats-Wales for Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Caerphilly are interesting [ 0 ]. Have they “missed the bus” !

        2. David Robins

          “And if developers want to avoid bringing down the value of the other properties being built with ‘on-site’ affordable housing then they can pay cash to the local authority for affordable housing elsewhere. But if the developer can persuade the council that to do so would make the project financially unviable then the payment can be reduced or withdrawn altogether.”

          Both routes that have the council’s housing officers tearing their hair out. To use that money, assuming they get any, they then have to find land elsewhere to build on that doesn’t already have an option on it sewn up in favour of a private housebuilder. Good luck with that. If the money isn’t spent within the specified time, it has to be handed back to the developer.

  4. hemscott123

    Well all the county councils used to build their own homes then they got rid of that idea and out sourced everything

    1. The councils very often had little choice in the matter. Referendums were organised and tenants were bombarded with propaganda promising a better life with a housing association.

      1. Wynne

        Yes, and many of those local tenants now find themselves with new neighbours from hell: imported problem families with issues that other local authorities, east of Offa’s Dyke, have decided to off-load.

        1. Dafis

          Wynne, why did you write drawing attention to that fact. There I was trying to have quiet day, calming myself in bid to restore my original docile placid nature. Now I’m rearing up again getting all set to launch into a well reasoned tirade against anything that comes from those bloated metropolitan English authorities. Any city containing upwards of a million people should be subjected to immediate population control and severe limits placed on movements out of those areas. This sort of “unpleasantness” is mild compared with the London regime’s vision for Wales’ future

          1. Wynne

            We look forward to the occasional rant from you Dafis when you are not in your “original docile placid nature”. It is the rants that make this such an interesting blog to follow, along with Jac’s excellent investigative journalism. I live in hope that local and national media will pick up and run with some of these stories, if they wish to sell newspapers.

            1. Dafis

              Local and national media, particularly the latter, seem designed NOT to inform but to lead the readership into a quiet place where they are fed a diet of stories that confirm the existing status quo. This is topped up from time to time with occasional doses of carefully constructed tales to foster either goodwill or hostility in line with some “cunning plan” devised by London and its lackeys in the media. I’m often accused of being paranoid but my defence is that a well developed awareness and sensitivity is vital to survival in the world we live in. Otherwise the jackals will clean us out. Covid has presented the bastards with loads of opportunities to manipulate and manouvre around people who aren’t wide awake.

    1. From what I’ve read it starts with a group of tenants demanding a vote of all tenants on whether to transfer from the local authority to a housing association. So, a small group, ‘influenced’ by an ambitious housing association, sets the ball rolling. All manner of promises will be made to the tenants – better care, tenants on the HA board – and very often it succeeds.

      Though not always. Swansea council tenants turned down a transfer. So did Wrecsam.

      1. Brychan

        Rhondda Cynon Taf Councils entire housing stock was privatised to create RCT Homes (now Trevallis) in December 2007. The Labour Party campaigned to vote in favour of this privatisation.

        1. Maybe there was more money available for a housing association than for the council. Another factor is that electors can be fickle whereas HAs are run by appointed board members and those they recruit.

          1. David Robins

            Correct. 2007 is Blair/Brown, who pushed LSVT (Large Scale Voluntary Transfer) right across Englandandwales. It was originally a Tory idea but, hey, they’re both Tories. There’s a short Wikipedia article on LSVT.

          2. Brychan

            It was the Labour Party who designed the ‘off-book’ public sector borrowing wheeze.

            This is where if the public housing stock was privatised the resulting organisation would be allowed to borrow huge sums from the banks to upgrade long neglected public housing stock. What actually happened is that huge loans were taken out, secured on housing stock that was built using funds from the taxpayer, by these new organisations that were staffed by property spivs.

            If this new debt could not be paid back from increasing rents from the tenants then the resulting debt burden could only be financed by acquisition of other pre-existing housing associations or financed by spare land sales, increasing housing density. In the touristy areas new houses on the leafier parts of estates were built and sold in the private sector often as holiday homes.

            Of course, these property spivs have another wheeze. To give birth to a ‘facilities management’ subsidiary. This is a firm with an exclusive contract of ‘care and repair’ of the existing housing stock. These subsidiaries could make extra profit by doing cheap quick-fix maintenance, which doesn’t last. In the valleys this is a nice little earner from some Labour Party insiders, in the north pet firms from north west England.

            In the English home counties this disaster has resulted in many wealthier local authorities having to buy back the housing stock they had previously owned. In Wales, however, being ‘poor areas’ eligible for EU funds so the cash flow can be maintained by grants or even directly subsidised out of the Welsh block grant.

            Cappuccino socialism in action.

            1. This ability to borrow money is another reason housing associations had to be ‘re-privatised’. Far easier for private companies to borrow than public bodies. And as public bodies perhaps any debt would be underwritten by the ‘Welsh Government’.

  5. Anonymous

    Not really, councils are notorious for waste. Out sourced to company’s the overall bill is still paid by local councils, when contract out do you honestly think they are getting it cheaper. They couldnt manage the staff due to incompetence and unions

  6. Anonymous

    I totally agree with what you say about the media 100% their the countrys wirse enemy, but no matter what party is in it will and always has been the same outcome

    1. He knows his stuff, John, and he’s rounded with it. Raised on a council estate he didn’t go from school straight to university. He went ‘the long way round’, through the real world of work, raising a family, serving as a councillor, and generally experiencing life. There’s no substitute for that.

  7. regionalsceptic

    I will not comment on current practices of housing associations have no detailed information,however it should obscure the excellent history of HA’s in Wales following the Housing Act 1974.They were seen as the ‘third arm’ of housing to assist in the ‘niche’ market between council housing and private ownership.Clearly they moved on with funding from UK government and by 1980 the largest in Wales had over 1700 properties so the ‘management’ was highly professional.There were many community based in specific locations which sought to improve existing housing and work with the grain of the people.One of which I am aware set up the first Care and Repair scheme with funding from UK government,and its own resources from ‘surpluses’ to assist elderly owner occupiers improve their properties,with grants etc using reputable professionals and builders.The same HA was the first in UK to develop housing using capital from the private sector in conjunction with the LA who provided infrastructure/land and rents outside the ‘Fair Rent’ scheme and approved by HM Treasury for housing benefit purposes.

    1. Dafis

      Obvious that there is some merit in the work that HA’s undertake. Had they stuck to their original core purposes I don’t think you’d find so many people on here getting their moss off regularly. There is a catalogue of repeated waste, duplication, misdirection and dubious motives. Hence the frequent articles by Jac which are damning indictment of so many of these bodies here in Wales. That little bit of good they do could still be done without all the other nonsense that’s grown with the increasing politicisation of these bodies.

    2. As you say, housing associations were originally ‘niche providers’ complementing local authorities. Helping specific groups such as ex-servicemen, Freemasons, people of the Jewish faith. But along the line someone saw the potential to expand the sector at the expense of local authorities.

    3. Neil Singleton

      The issue of planning, and conditions applied by local authorities to planning permissions, has long been contentious. Having been involved in property matters in both public and private sectors, it seems to me invariably to be the case that most local authority planners do not have any private sector experience or business acumen. The same applies, to a slightly less extent, to local authority property personnel. This leads to the public officials being unable to properly negotiate with housing developers, and to disseminate whether they are being ripped off by developers or not, because they do not have the requisite experience in the financial aspects of property development. Sometimes, as with my own local authority, outside expertise is sought, but this is intermittent and the advice is sought from a firm of accountants, not property development consultants! Alternatively, the planners simply draw up a wish list of requirements, affordable housing, schools, community centres, play areas, highways works etc etc. On many occasions, it is pointless for developers to explain that the land cost, never mind a profit, will be in the negative, if all the Council’s demands are met. If the Council remains adamant, the developer will walk and nothing will be built. These situations CAN be overcome by an “open book” approach, with appropriate expertise on both sides, and the introduction of an “overage clause” whereby the Council receives additional payments/works if the development achieves a greater than expected return for the developer. In the final analysis, achieving success in negotiation is that the deal arrived has to be good for BOTH parties.

      1. Wynne

        Yes, totally agree. From my experience, it is very difficult to obtain information regarding negotiations between LPA’s and developers. Negotiations are confidential. Exemptions claimed under FOI Act when information is requested.

        1. Neil Singleton

          Correct. Property developers employ expertise in hiding the “true” profit, which is why it require commensurate expertise on the Council’s side. The best expertise available to Council’s is from “poachers turned gamekeepers”:who know how skeletons/profits are concealed.

  8. regionalsceptic

    @Dafis I agree that Jac is providing very useful information on ‘development’ issues,sometimes involving housing association’s.It seems very ‘murky’ in some cases,but where is the welsh media??.It seems to humble me that the WAG/BBC Cymru/Wales,and virtually all other public bodies seem to have a nice cosy relation. CUSHTY as Del Boy might put it!!.@Jac.The Housing Act 1974,under the Wilson government really did move the HA’s up the housing provider chain,but in concert with LA’s,the marginalisation of LA’s occurred in the 1980’s under Mrs. Thatcher.

    1. I remember what happened in the 80s, but things have gone up a notch in the past decade with Labour seeing HAs as another area for patronage and the ONS threatening to classify HAs as public bodies.

  9. Dafis

    Just noted this story in some business news mag.

    https://www.insidermedia.com/news/wales/legal-general-to-bring-together-1800-staff-in-cardiff-move?utm_source=wales_newsletter&utm_campaign=wales_news_tracker&utm_medium=top_story_article

    Seems like every man and his dog is still piling into the middle of Cardiff as though it’s the easiest place in the world to get to ! You may notice the little snippet that says : ” in addition to office space for Legal & General, will include 318 build to rent (BTR) homes and a 14-bay bus station.”. It will be interesting to find out whether those 318 homes will be of the kind that will attract likes of your mate Mr James to expand his portfolio or will they be orientated to the “needs” of our thriving HA’s as they meet the ever growing demand among those recently relocated from gentrified bits of major English cities.

  10. Dafis

    Off topic, I read elsewhere that Plaid has drawn up its lists of candidates for Regional Senedd seats. Down in 4th place in her region is their poster girl for tolerance and inclusion !

    South Wales Central – Rhys ab Owen, Heledd Fychan, Fflur Elin, Sahar Al-Faifi.

    Does this mean that Plaid is now giving priority to some other form of ishoo? Have they finally cottoned on to the unpleasant truth about the Islamofascist propensity to engage in chucking LGBT types off tall buildings ? or is it just an admin error ?

    1. It has all the hallmarks of a compromise. They’d lose face, and cause internal divisions, if they did the sensible thing and told her to sling her hook; so they’ve kept her on the list but with no chance of getting elected. But for as long as she’s there it’s only a matter of time until she causes more embarrassment. She is what she is – a Muslin extremist.

    2. Brychan

      The Plaid Cymru regional candidates are as follows..

      South Wales West
      1. Luke Fletcher
      2. Sioned Williams
      3. John Davies
      4. Jamie Evans

      Luke is the clone SpadGrad in International Relations and Politics. Also standing as the constituency candidate in Ogmore. Sioned is from Alltwen and also the constituency candidate for Neath.

      South Wales Central
      1. Rhys ab Owen
      2. Heledd Fychan
      3. Fflur Elin
      4. Sahar Al-Faifi

      Rhys is a lawyer and son of a previous AM, sharp suited Cardiff crachach. The maths work so if Leanne loses Rhondda, the resultant regional top-up will see Heledd gain.

      Mid and West Wales
      1. Cefin Campbell
      2. Helen Mary Jones
      3. Rhys Thomas
      4. Elwyn Vaughan

      Cefin is a Carmathenshire county councillor, a farmer who owns land in Llangadog, Bethlehem, Gelli Aur and Glamaman. HMJ has been somewhat of an emarrasment for Plaid Cymru, and is unlikely to win the Llanelli seat, and therefore will be disposed of quietly as a hopeless second on the regional list.

      North Wales
      1. Llyr Gruffydd
      2. Carrie Harper
      3. Elin Walker Jones
      4. Owen Hurcum

      Llyr is one of the few MSs who has performed well for Plaid Cymru, but the more forthright Carrie of Wrecsam is demoted to second position, as Llyr won’t win a constituency seat.

      South Wales East
      1. Delyth Jewell
      2. Peredur Owen Griffiths
      3. Lindsay Whittle
      4. Rhys Mills

      The only regional list for Plaid Cymru where the woman is in pole position. The ‘real gutsy’ community campaigning candidates of Carrie, Heledd and Sioned only get second place which is probably a measure of where Plaid Cymru are as a party. Keep the comfy suits.

  11. Dafis

    Looks like Boris is going to shut Enger-land into a lockdown soonest. Some flip-flopper ! Tories in Wales who were howling for Drakeford’s head just to please Boris will now have to find some other nonsense to chant, or of course they could just shut the fuck up and climb back into their pits.

    Sad thing is that this gives Drakeford some semblance of the “high ground”, although moral it might not be. It will give him that little bit of cred to go into the 2021 election unless someone contrives to take a wheel off his gambo in the meantime.

  12. Dafis

    Signs that perhaps Boris is getting fed up with substandard attempts at arse licking from his Welsh Tory M.P’s :

    Brecon and Radnorshire MP Fay Jones called on Boris Johnson to say that he would “encourage” travel and stop the Welsh Government creating “artificial barriers” between Wales and England. But Boris Johnson apologised and said that people should not travel unless “absolutely necessary” and that they should “stay home and stop transmission of the virus”.

    Well Fay, fuck off back into your cage and stay silent until you have something useful to say.

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