The impacts of welfare reform
Welfare reform is moving from proposals to reality. January 2012 saw the introduction of the overall capping of housing benefit payments from £250 a week for one-bedroom homes to £400 for a four-bed. In addition, as of January 2012, Local Housing Allowance levels were linked to the bottom third of rents in any area.
Evidence is emerging of the likely impact of these and other changes:
Is the Work Programme working?
A National Audit Office report published in January 2012 looked at how the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) introduced the Work Programme which, in 2011, replaced virtually all welfare to work programmes run by the DWP in England, Scotland and Wales. It offers support to unemployed people who have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance to help them get, and keep, jobs.
Key findings are that:
The full report is available online at www.nao.org.uk
The future of Feed in Tariffs and the Green Deal
A Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) consultation paper published in February 2012 outlines plans for a new Feed in Tariff structure as well as clarifying a number of decisions that have now been made. A tariff of 21p/kWh will take effect from 1 April 2012 for domestic-size solar panels with an eligibility date on or after 3 March 2012. Other tariff reductions apply for larger installations. DECC is consulting on a proposal that social housing, community projects and distributed energy schemes be exempt from these multi-installation tariff rates.
A series of documents about Feed in Tariffs from DECC are online at www.decc.gov.uk
In November 2011, DECC published consumer research in relation to the Green Deal and the private rented sector which identified a number of ways in which the Green Deal could be made more attractive to both private rented sector landlords and tenants. The research is online at www.decc.gov.uk
10 to look out for
1 - Resilient people, resilient planet – a future worth chosing - contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible. Report of the United Nations High Level Panel on global sustainability, January 2012
2 - The Housing Europe Review 2012 – the nuts and bolts of European housing systems - CECODHAS, 2012
3 - Wales 2030 – perspectives on the future – based on a survey of Welsh businesses in the context of increasing competition from the BRIC countries - Wales Quality Centre, February 2012
4 - A vicious cycle – the heavy burden of credit on low income families - Barnardo’s, December 2011
5 - Build to let - rethinking the use of housing benefit to help families out of temporary accommodation - New Local Government Network, December 2011
6 - Does size matter? or does culture drive value for money? - Chartered Institute of Housing, January 2012
7 - Co-operative capitalism – a new economic model from the carnage of the old - Co-ops UK, 2011
8 - Does debt advice pay for landlords? Report, and accompanying toolkit for social landlords, is designed to help housing associations calculate the value of debt advice in terms of reducing rent arrears - National Housing Federation, 2011
9 - From the poor law to welfare to work – what have we learned from a century of anti-poverty policies? - Smith Institute, January 2012
10 - Localism that works – how housing associations make things happen - PlaceShapers Group, December 2011
Climate change risk assessment
A national assessment of potential risks and opportunities from climate change facing Wales for the rest of this century has been undertaken. The main potential threats and opportunities in relation to buildings and infrastructure are identified as:
The report is online at wales.gov.uk
The Silk Commission on Devolution in Wales was launched by Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan on 11 October 2011. The independent Commission has been established to review the present financial and constitutional arrangements in Wales. The first phase of its gathering of evidence focusing on Wales’ fiscal future ended in early February 2012 and the Commission is due to report on this element by autumn 2012.
More information about the Silk Commission including evidence submitted by a range of organisations is online at commissionondevolutioninwales
Early February 2012 saw the Welsh Government supplementary budget which included a decision to transfer £97 million from revenue to capital with housing being one of the areas to benefit. £3 million has been allocated to support disabled facility adaptations to social rented housing and £18.1million to increase the supply and choice of housing, of which £8.9 million will fund housing schemes through the provision of Social Housing Grant.
The Supplementary Budget is online at new.wales.gov.uk
Current Welsh Government consultation papers include:
Welsh Government consultation papers are online at new.wales.gov.uk
Package of support for armed forces
In November 2011, the Welsh Government have published a document outlining the package of support available the armed forces community in Wales which draws on The Armed Forces Covenant: Today and Tomorrow. On housing, the document notes:
The document is online at new.wales.gov.uk
From 31 December 2011, responsibility for building regulations transferred wholly to the Welsh Government.
Welsh Ministers aim to reduce carbon emissions by 55% improvement on 2006 requirements for new homes by April 2013. In order to do so, ministers are undertaking a review of Schedule 1 Part L to the Building Regulations 2010 which relates to the conservation of fuel and power. The Environment Minister is expected to consult on these proposals in March 2012.
Minister for Environment, John Griffiths, has also announced the appointment of eight members for the Building Regulations Advisory Committee for Wales.
More information is online here www.wales.gov.uk
£5 million for empty homes
From April 2012, a new £5 million ‘Houses to Homes’ Recyclable Loans Fund will enable local authorities to offer loans to landlords to renovate empty run-down residential properties and return them to use as homes for sale or rent. Landlords will repay the interest-free loan by a fixed period, recycling the money into further loans to bring more properties back into use as homes.
Review of regeneration policy
Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, Huw Lewis has announced a review of regeneration policy which will consider the Welsh Government’s current policy, in particular the Regeneration Area approach, and a future direction for regeneration in Wales. The Minister indicated that he would set out his future regeneration priorities following the review in early 2013.
New era for council housing in Cardiff
Council housing in Cardiff is about to enter a new chapter with £33 million being allocated to build new council housing over the next five years on council-owned brownfield sites across the city. The Housing Partnering project will deliver 1,000 new homes in the city with around 400 of the homes allocated as affordable homes to rent. It is estimated that these plans will support 250 jobs and be a significant boost to the local economy.
The result of the stock transfer ballot in Caerphilly was announced on 17 February 2012. Nearly 67% of tenants voted, with 65.2% voting no to a transfer to Castell Mynydd and 34.8% voting yes.
Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, Huw Lewis paid a visit to NPT homes to see how the WHQS improvement programme is progressing. He visited Jeanette Lord, one of the first tenants to benefit from a new kitchen and bathroom at a property in Alltywerin which she shares with her son.
As part of a range of training courses funded by Newport City Homes (NCH) and open to all NCH residents free of charge, residents recently attended the Easy Peasy DIY course. The course gave residents the opportunity to learn basic skills, including unblocking sinks and toilets, changing faulty tap washers and painting and decorating.
National Apprenticeship Week
A number of registered social landlords celebrated National Apprenticeship Week in February 2012. Pictured are from left to right – apprentices at Clwyd Alyn, Cynon Housing Group, Daniel Jarvis, an apprentice with Charter Housing receiving his Outstanding Achiever 2011 award at the Newport Construction Industry awards and Mid Wales Housing.
Local tenant participation strategy update!
Most landlords have submitted their Local Tenant Participation Strategies (LTPSs) for the second round, but quite a number were given extensions for their submission and some have still to arrive. The Tenant Participation Advisory Service is assessing the LTPSs on behalf of the Welsh Government. A report on the overall assessment of LTPSs overall should be completed by the end of March 2012.
A conversation with
Beaufort Research was commissioned in September 2011 by Community Housing Cymru (CHC) to explore perceptions of the organisation in the context of members’ needs. The findings of the research undertaken with member registered social landlords identified high levels of satisfaction with the services provided by CHC but also identified three themes which appear to be particularly significant going forward:
In response to the findings of the research, CHC has established four task and finish groups on governance, lobbying and representation, communication and engagement with members and learning.
The report and more information about the task and finish groups is online at www.chcymru.org.uk
Direct payment pilot
The pilot of direct payments in Wales will be undertaken by Bron Afon Community Housing working with Torfaen County Borough Council and Charter Housing.
The demonstration projects will take place from June 2012 until June 2013 and will test how claimants can manage housing benefit monthly payments ahead of the introduction of Universal Credit from October 2013.
Equality Act advice
Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation project has produced a series of Equality Act factsheets can be downloaded from the Agile Nation website. They offer an overview of the Act, introduce the 9 Protected Characteristics and explain the business benefits that equality and diversity strategies can deliver.
The factsheets are available from www.agilenation.co.uk
Family intervention scheme
Charter and Solas’ Lasting Solutions family intervention scheme has been evaluated. The overall findings were that Lasting Solutions is achieving many positive outcomes for families and that the scheme offers exceptional value for money, offering a net rate of return on investment of 426%. The scheme has recently been granted £6,000 by NatWest’s Community Force Grant Scheme, following a public vote, to tackle anti-social behavior in the community.
The evaluation report is online at www.charterhousing.co.uk