THE number of council properties that comply with a national housing standard in Swansea continues to rise, as does the money borrowed to fund the work.
Swansea is among 11 out of 22 authorities in Wales which still owns its council houses and has until December 31 this year to bring them up to the Welsh Quality Housing Standard (WQHS).
Thousands of kitchens, bathrooms, doors, windows, roofs and boilers have been replaced in a long-running programme which will cost more than £500 million.
As of December 31, 2020, the number of properties that complied fully with the WQHS increased by more than a quarter to 7,753 compared to 21 months previously.
That still left 5,795 council houses and flats which weren’t compliant, but more than half of those were down to tenants choosing not to have a particular upgrade.
Councillors on a scrutiny panel heard that four external contractors and the council’s in-house building services team have been replacing kitchens and bathrooms and that there was a focus on refurbishing empty properties at the start of the Covid pandemic to minimise contact with tenants.
Cllr Jeff Jones asked about the length of contracts and the procurement process, and whether tenants’ rent covered the programme.
Council officer Dave Meyrick said there was always a competitive tendering process to ensure the council received value for money and reckoned that around £200 million had been borrowed to help finance the WQHS project.
Mr Meyrick said a further programme of work to “decarbonise” social housing in Wales post-2022 would require “an awful lot” of further borrowing.
“We can’t really be specific about how much because we don’t know how big the programme is going to be yet,” he said.
Cllr Andrea Lewis, the cabinet member for homes, energy and service transformation, said all the borrowing was done via the housing revenue account, which is kept separate from day-to-day spending.
Seven of the 11 councils with their own housing stock have met the WQHS criteria, but with varying rates of full compliance. For example, 90% of Carmarthenshire Council’s housing stock was fully complaint but only 47% of Powys Council’s was.
Mr Meyrick said he hoped Swansea could get up to 77% compliant before the December 31 deadline.
Referring to a question by Cllr Mary Jones about smoke alarms, Mr Meyrick said all properties had a mains-wired one but that there was a small number of tenants who didn’t want council staff coming into their property to check on them.
Cllr Jones also asked what powers the council had if, for example, the damage was done to kitchens and fly-tipped rubbish was left in gardens.
She was advised that tenants could be required to repay the cost of removing fly-tipped rubbish and that “malicious damage” would also be recharged to them.
Speaking last December, councillor and tenant Gloria Tanner said she was pleased with the new kitchen, bathroom and wiring carried out by external contractors in her Clase bungalow.
“Most of them were delightful, and they cleaned up after themselves,” she said.