One of the key aims of the Welsh Government is to ensure that all the people of Wales, including social housing tenants, have the opportunity to live in good quality homes, in safe and secure communities.
To ensure that all homes are brought up to an acceptable level, the Welsh Government have drawn up a document, the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS). This is a standard for the quality and condition of properties which lists a number of targets which all homes will need to meet.
The WHQS document requires all social housing to be:
- In a good state of repair
- Safe and secure
- Adequately heated, fuel efficient and well insulated
- Equipped with up to date kitchens and bathrooms
- Located in safe and attractive environments
- Well managed
Local authorities in Wales have until December 2021 to ensure that all their social housing ticks these boxes and achieves the standard. This means improvement works will need to be carried out on all homes which do not currently meet this standard.
Our (Wrexham Council’s) housing service owns over 11,000 social housing properties, the largest number in any Welsh local authority apart from Cardiff and Swansea. This stock includes properties of various different ages, shapes and sizes, and built from all sorts of different materials. All of these properties will need to meet the WHQS by December 2021.
How will our housing service achieve the WHQS?
To ensure that the WHQS can be achieved, we have been carrying out a comprehensive improvement works programme on Wrexham’s social housing. Our housing service is working with a number of contractors to ensure all aspects of the improvement works can be carried out to a high standard.
The works programme is ongoing and we are on target to complete the works by the December 2021 deadline, despite Covid-19 restrictions. We will be investing £58.9 million during 2021/2022.
How the work is being funded
Each year, we set out an annual budget for housing improvement works. The funding is provided by a combination of council house rent income, borrowed money (prudential borrowing) and income from the sale of council owned land and properties.
We are also receiving a Major Repairs Allowance of £7.5 million for 2020/21. This is a grant awarded by the Welsh Government to local authorities to help them achieve the WHQS.
What improvements are being made to properties?
Some properties may already meet the standard and will not need any extra internal or external work, whereas some may require quite a lot.
You will receive plenty of notice to let you know if there are plans for any of these works to be carried out on your property.
The following improvements are being made where appropriate:
- Properties are being offered a new kitchen and bathroom, unless their current kitchen or bathroom already meets the standard.
- We have installed external wall insulation to many properties to improve the energy efficiency of these homes.
- We have commenced an external works programme to update fencing and paths at properties (this external work will be carried out where required, to ensure the property meets the WHQS)
Here is a brief rundown of the other internal and external works:
This includes replacing the kitchen units, wall units and sink unit, and the installation of safety floor finishes and extract fan, inclusive of associated works
The replacing/installation of bathroom suites (inclusive of separate WCs), shower, floor finish, extract fan and associated works.
Electrical rewires/central heating
Replacement boilers, central heating systems and rewires. Where possible, this work will be carried out alongside the kitchen/bathroom work, to minimize disruption.
Includes re-pointing to the dwelling walls, repairing or replacing conventional render, replacing cladding and the pointing of or re-building of chimney stacks.
Non-traditional house repair
Includes the installation of external wall insulation and any associated works. N.b. - where properties receive external wall insulation they may also be subject to receiving a replacement roof as part of the scheme.
Communal external works
Includes replacement door entry systems, communal doors and lighting.
Other external issues
Includes strengthening or replacing masonry walls which are deemed defective, works to drainage systems and the repair of concrete elements that have become defective. Can also include repairs, replacements or improvements to (where required and relevant) footpaths, outhouses/sheds, clothes drying facilities, boundaries (fencing, walls etc.).
When will work be carried out on my property?
All properties will receive written notice well in advance of any planned improvement works to give you time to prepare.
How is work progressing?
Since the programme began the following work has been completed:
- 11,156 properties have received new kitchens
- 11,156 properties have receives new bathrooms
- 10,527 properties have received new central heating systems
- 9,346 properties have received electrical rewires
- 9,886 properties have been reroofed
- 5,700 properties have received external works
Will the work involve disruption to my home?
Carrying out improvement works on this scale will inevitably involve some disruption for tenants and we realise the internal works, particularly replacing kitchens and bathrooms, can cause upheaval. We hope that seeing the finished product will make it worthwhile, and you will be able to speak to a Tenant Liaison Officer if you have any concerns.
The role of our Tenant Liaison Officers is to:
- stay in touch with you while a particular aspect of the work is being carried out
- help answer any queries you may have
- act as a point of contact between you and the housing service
Our contractors also have their own Resident Liaison Officers who have a similar role so there will always be a friendly face that you can contact while the work is going on, should any issues arise.
How are we monitoring the quality of the work being carried out?
Each aspect of the work has to be inspected by one of the housing service’s Clerk of Works, before it can be signed off as completed. The Clerk must be satisfied that the work achieves the WHQS before they can sign off.
Our housing service uses Service Improvement Groups, made up of elected tenants, who regularly visit properties, speak to tenants, and perform ‘mystery shopper’ type inspections on properties where improvement work is taking place. Their findings are reported back to the housing service to help us maintain a high standard of work and address any issues which may arise.
Questionnaires are also issued to tenants after each aspect of work has been completed. The results are then collected, compared and analysed so that a high standard of work can be maintained across the board.
What if the money runs out before work is carried out on my property?
Every social housing property in Wrexham County Borough must achieve the WHQS by the 2021 deadline. Our commitment and promise to you, the tenant, is that all your homes will achieve the standard. No homes will be left behind.
What are ‘Community Benefit’ Schemes?
Along with the Welsh Government, our housing service is committed to ensuring that the local economy sees the maximum value from every penny spent on the work to achieve the WHQS.
Clauses are now included in all major contracts, requiring contractors who work with the housing service to commit to ‘give something extra’ back to the local economy through Community Benefit schemes.
Schemes can include sponsoring local projects, such as: community gardens and sports teams, refurbishing schools, village halls and community centres.
Community benefits can also include taking on local workers, setting up apprenticeship schemes and purchasing stock and supplies from local businesses.
Community Benefit Schemes have so far resulted in:
- Over 60 modern apprentices employed
- 114 weeks of work experience provided
- 36 employees have been provided with short term employment
- 34 employees have been given long term employment
- £63,197 has been donated as cash or in-kind to organizations or projects within Wales