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
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.
Local authorities in Wales had until December 2021 to ensure that all their social housing ticked these boxes and achieved the standard. This meant improvement works needed to be carried out on all homes which did not meet this standard. We achieved this standard during the last quarter of 2021 and have now moved into the maintenance stage.
How did our housing service achieve the WHQS?
To ensure that the WHQS was achieved, we carried out a comprehensive improvement works programme on Wrexham’s social housing.
Our housing service worked with a number of contractors to ensure all aspects of the improvement works were carried out to a high standard. Works carried out have included:
- Properties were offered a new kitchen and bathroom, unless their current kitchen or bathroom already met the standard.
- Installing external wall insulation to many properties to improve the energy efficiency of these homes.
- Beginning 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)
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 also receive a Major Repairs Allowance which is a grant awarded by the Welsh Government to local authorities to help them achieve the WHQS.
In 2022/23 we will receive £7.5m from the Welsh Government which will be spent on WHQS improvement schemes.
In 2022/23 we will spend £50.8m on WHQS improvements.
What improvements are being made to properties?
The following will continue as part of the capital investment programme for 2022/23:
- re-roofing (which will continue as part of the maintenance phase)
- full and partial rewires (which will continue as part of the maintenance phase)
- the replacement of central heating systems (which will continue as part of the maintenance phase)
- the programme of constructing on plot parking provision to properties
- traditionally constructed difficult to heat properties will continue to receive EWI as part of the decarbonisation programme
- major refurbishment of empty properties
- decanting of properties where previous WHQS refusals have taken place (these will also include a ‘whole house’ refurbishment approach)
- plastering of tenanted properties where defective plaster may require works (this will include looking at the best options in terms of delivery, property types and cost effectiveness)
- major investment in sheltered housing accommodation
- major external works and environmental programme
A new window and door programme will also start as part of the capital investment programme for 2022/23.
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.
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 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