North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has voiced his concern that Flintshire tenants will be short changed with the First Minister this week.
Mr Isherwood raised the matter in Tuesday’s Plenary after the First Minister was asked to make a statement on progress being made towards achieving the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).
“In 2012, which was when the Standard was supposed to have been achieved by all social landlords, the Wales Audit Office said that the main shortfall in meeting the Standard was in areas where tenants voted against proposals to transfer. Your then Housing Minister subsequently stated that three authorities hadn’t got realistic business plans and had to resubmit new ones, which were approved by the subsequent Minister (Carl sergeant AM).
“Given that the limit set for housing related borrowing as part of the agreement to exit the Housing Revenue Account left an estimated borrowing headroom across all authorities of just £471 million to achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, how can that be achieved to the standard originally intended with the additional bits - wider community regeneration - when that only leaves estimated borrowing for Wrexham at £118 million - that’s good - Swansea at £74 million, but Flintshire at only £25 million under that headroom established?
The First Minister replied:
“We expect the affordable homes target to be met in a variety of ways, whether that’s through local authorities, through housing associations, through partnerships, of course, between the two, and other ways, to see where it’s possible to intervene in the local market to make sure that there’s a sufficient supply of housing, particularly in rural areas. All these things are under consideration, as we look at innovative ways of dealing with this issue”.
Mr Isherwood added: “Much as Wales’ crisis in affordable housing supply is vitally important, my question was not about this. It was instead about delivering the Standard for existing social housing set by the Welsh Government. When Flintshire’s tenants were balloted on stock transfer they were told that almost £150m was needed to bring the County Council’s housing stock up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, but having retained their housing stock, the County’s estimated limit on borrowing to meet the Standard is just £25m, after borrowing £10m for new build council housing rather than working with Housing Associations to deliver new-build. We must ask whether the Standard they were supposed to have achieved by 2012 can now be achieved by 2020 without watering down the requirements.”