I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
I’m using this, another of my infrequent, pre-retirement postings, to put out a letter I sent to the Western Mail that that organ clearly has no intention of publishing. Probably because it’s critical of the Labour Party and Labour’s crony state in Wales.
Late last year it became known that social housing providers had been levying unlawful charges on certain tenants. A curious business in which the Senedd’s lawyers had to explain the law to ‘Welsh Government’ lawyers!
After being informed, the ‘Welsh Government’ hurriedly introduced backdated legislation, which of course covered the collective arse of Labour’s cronies in housing associations and the third sector.
Perhaps more importantly, the legislation avoided having to make refunds to the tenants. And all because somebody in Corruption Bay cocked-up. Given the way this country is run the person responsible will probably be promoted.
Last week, I wrote a letter to the Wasting Mule trying to explain the mess housing is in. Given the matters it addresses – and no matter what the Western Mail may think – I believe the contents of this letter merit an audience.
Here is that letter:
The remarkable case of the Senedd’s lawyers suggesting the Welsh Government’s lawyers have got it wrong over allowing landlords of rented properties to levy service charges brings into focus the status of Registered Social Landlords or housing associations.
For many years RSLs were classed as Provident and Industrial Societies, regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Most in Wales held housing stock that had been transferred from local authorities and received further funding from the Welsh Government to improve those properties and build new.
But in October 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) dropped a bombshell by announcing that RSLs in England would be reclassified from Private Non-Financial Corporations to Public Non-Financial Corporations.
Further announcements were made relating to the devolved authorities.
Which meant that what had always been treated as public bodies would now officially become public bodies. And this threw up problems.
Not least that the debts of Registered Social Landlords would transfer to the UK public sector net debt.
To avoid this unwanted outcome RSLs were privatised. The legislation for Wales was passed in May 2018 and accepted by the ONS a month later.
This privatisation saw Welsh housing associations form subsidiaries, often unregistered and unregulated, which are now building private properties all over the country, many marketed as ‘affordable’ in an attempt to maintain the pretence of being social housing providers.
‘Affordability’ is determined by the price of other properties in the area. In Abersoch, for example, an ‘affordable’ property would be in the region of £330,000. Affordable to the Cheshire Set, maybe, but not to locals.
Privatisation and the rush into private housing means that most housing associations no longer have an interest in building affordable rented housing. This explains why an increasing number of local authorities have started building council houses again.
And yet, despite now being privatised, and being major players in the private housing market (at the expense of social housing), housing associations are still being funded by the Welsh Government.
With much of this funding reaching subsidiaries who use it to build the unaffordable ‘affordable’ housing. Justified by arguing that the profits from the private sales will go back to the parent RSL to build social housing!
Er, why can’t the parent RSL just keep ALL the money and build social housing?
From figures I’ve received from the Welsh Government, the total amount given to RSLs between 2010 and 2020 was in excess of £1.3bn, with the annual amounts increasing since they were privatised in 2018.
Clearly, the Welsh Government still regards housing associations as public bodies. This explains both the continued funding and the current attempt to legislate in favour of these officially privatised companies.
It also tells us that the housing sector is a shambles, and sorting it out should be a priority for the administration that comes in after May’s Senedd elections.
Which could start by clarifying the status of our housing associations, their rapidly multiplying subsidiaries, and the relationship of both with the Welsh Government.
Specific attention should be paid to Welsh Government funding given to RSLs being diverted to subsidiaries for open market housing.
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