Going about my lawful occasions this afternoon my ever-watchful eye fell upon a van belonging to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, the new housing association that has taken over the council housing in Gwynedd. ‘Something odd here’ I thought to myself . . . and then it struck me.
First off, the van had a brand new licence plate telling me that the vehicle had been registered in Essex. Also, the plate carried ‘GB’ rather than ‘Cymru’. Definitely odd for a supposedly ‘local’ housing association. Does not auger well, and makes me worry that CCG will go the way of our other rural housing associations.
Which will mean CCG forging links with English local authorities and charities, and with assorted agencies dealing with the multifareous problems of England’s towns and cities. Resulting all too often in the inhabitants of Welsh towns and villages experiencing an influx of troublemakers and undesirables that have no connection with the community . . . other than the fact that Sioned at Tai Cwmscwt has an ‘understanding’ with Vikki at the Lancashire Centre for Alcohol Abusing Single Mothers with Drugs Problems and Criminal Offspring.
For as we know – but politicians will never admit – Welsh housing associations are now causing considerable anguish in hitherto peaceful and relatively crime-free communities by bringing in ‘colourful’ tenants from over the border. This can not go on. Now that the Assembly has responsibility for housing it must act and make it mandatory that one criterion and one criterion only is applied in the allocation of social housing. That criterion is of course strong local connections.
Making yourself homeless in Birmingham should not take you to the top of the council waiting list in a Welsh town you’ve never heard of. A ‘change of environment’ in Aberystwyth should not be the reward for petty criminals in Manchester.
Housing associations in rural Wales must be reined in and told to revert to their original purpose – providing social housing for those with strong local connections. And rather than build new properties our housing associations should also have the power restored to them to buy suitable older properties.
Once housing associations are serving the Welsh people again the Assembly can turn its attention to private landlords of the kind that have blighted Rhyl and other towns. Then comes the Big One – private housing. Here we need also to apply the ‘local need’ principle. To do so will resolve the problem of the Assembly – or its civil servants – insisting that local authorities allow the building of insane numbers of new dwellings, well beyond any conceivable local demand.
For what is as stake here is Welsh identity. This was understood by those who set the current rules for social and private housing in Wales – so why can’t those who love Wales also see it? Or are they too afraid to speak out? No doubt many have a finger in the pie.We need as many people as possible to contact their AM to insist that the new housing powers are used for the benefit of Welsh people and the Welsh nation. Otherwise, transferring these powers is yet another waste of time.FOOTNOTE
(Aug 3): Having said that I suppose the legislation under which Welsh housing associations operate plays a big part in the problem. For this states that all financial surpluses be re-invested in new housing or in renovating existing stock. And herein lies the problem.
For let us assume that a housing association returns healthy profits every year but has very few locals looking for properties, what is it to do but seek tenants from outside its area and even from outside of Wales? Which leads to the problem outlined above.
However, if strong local connections becomes the sine qua non for social housing in Wales then not only shall we see the end of the problem outlined but we shall also have found another source of funding for social projects that benefit our people and our communities.
This must also be obvious to those running our housing associations. That they prefer to build properties for which there is no Welsh demand says a great deal about these people.