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Concerns raised over cost of achieving proposed new housing standards

WREXHAM Council has raised concerns over the cost of achieving proposed new housing standards in Wales. The Council has already invested tens of millions of pounds to meet strict Welsh Government requirements to improve its social housing stock

The Welsh housing quality standard compels social landlords to ensure properties are in good repair, adequately heated and have modern kitchens and bathrooms.

The council successfully hit the first deadline for upgrading properties set by the devolved government last year.

Ministers in Cardiff Bay are now consulting on a new set of standards, which have been updated to include a requirement for new flooring to be laid when a property becomes empty.

Social landlords would also need to create wildlife-friendly areas on communal land, take steps to reduce water wastage and ensure heating systems are affordable for tenants to run.

However, council officials in Wrexham believe the changes could have a significant financial impact and have highlighted a shortage of contractors to carry out the work.

In their draft response to the consultation, they said:

“The cost of undertaking the proposals is unaffordable without Welsh Government providing substantial financial support each year, and not on a bid process.

“There is insufficient capacity in the existing construction sector to deliver existing HRA (housing revenue account) capital repair, maintenance and improvement programmes.

“Generally, in North Wales, we are fishing from the same pond for external contractors.

“Demand outstripping supply will lead to increased tender costs and make programmes even less achievable and affordable.

“The majority of tenants would welcome a new kitchen and bathroom, but, some of the additions will be met with resistance and refusals from tenants, particularly older or vulnerable who may not want upheaval.”

The council currently manages more than 11,000 homes across the county borough.

The improvements to its housing stock have so far been funded by a combination of rental income, borrowed money and government grants.

If approved, the new standards would need to be met by local authorities by the end of 2033 – a deadline officials in Wrexham described as “unrealistic”.

Explaining the reasons for the changes, the Welsh Government said:

“Everyone accepts that living in a quality home brings benefits to both the physical and mental wellbeing of those who live in them.

“The purpose of this Welsh Housing Quality Standard 2023 is to improve the quality of social homes in Wales.

“All social homes in Wales are required to meet and maintain the standard.

“Over the last two decades, Welsh Government together with social landlords, have invested billions of pounds to significantly improve and maintain the quality of social homes across Wales.

“The existing standard requires updating to reflect changes to how people live, work and feel about their homes, and to start decarbonising the Welsh social housing stock at scale.”

Cllr David A Bithell, Wrexham’s lead member for housing, will be asked to approve the council’s proposed response to the consultation today (Friday, July 29).

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