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Regulation update

Deep Sagar reports on the latest news from the Regulatory Board for Wales.

Some things moved forward but some did not this quarter.

Annual report: The Board has submitted its annual report with advice to the Welsh Government. Among the main points we have made is the need to understand better if housing associations are making the best use of the money available. We have also suggested that the Regulator consider what other formal sources of information it considers apart from the self-evaluation sent in by the housing association. It could consider, for example how many complaints from customers reach the Ombudsman.

Review: As I said last time, the minister had asked for a review of or around the Board a few months ago. The reviewer has consulted me and other board members but I have been told the review has taken longer than planned but hopefully will conclude soon. Unfortunately I have no knowledge of its recommendations.

Members: The Board has carried two vacancies for over a year. In fact these have now increased further. However, the Welsh Government has decided it will not begin recruiting until revised terms of reference for the Board have been agreed after the review mentioned above.

Positive news: At least two bits of policy from the Welsh Government we had welcomed recently. First, the Minister announced that overall rents for social housing could increase by a maximum of only 3.1 per cent for next year. Given that the Consumer Price Index shows at least 5 per cent inflation over the last year this should help most tenants. Second, the government announced new funding worth £150 million for its Optimised Retrofit Programme; this will help to reduce carbon dioxide emission from present social homes. It also published an ambitious net-zero strategy.

Social housing conditions: In July last year the Regulator had written to all social housing landlords for information on housing condition and disrepair. It has just published a useful collection of responses. It appears that eight of 10 housing associations are dealing with disrepair claims though just about one in 100 properties appeared affected, with damp and mould being the main claims.  We have asked the Regulator if it is considering any specific steps as a consequence. This is a topical subject because from July this year landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their property is in repair and fit for human habitation; the government has published detailed guidance.

Tenants’ views: Tenant Participation and Advice Service (TPAS) Cymru remains a valuable source of information from housing tenants and customers. It has published a Tenants Insight bulletin recently. Tenants appear to be concerned that rents remain affordable, services charges be better explained, online services not be pushed on to those who prefer telephones or speaking to a staff member, and their changing needs from housing (such as broadband) be understood. I am sure housing associations will be taking this feedback seriously and looking again at their relationship with customers.

Communication: The Board and I keep thinking about how to better listen to housing associations and their tenants and customers. Recently I met with chairs of Newport Homes, Hafod and Pobl, three important associations. I am speaking at Tai 2022 in Swansea in April. Please meet me there or continue to email [email protected] with feedback. Your letters make our work better.

Deep Sagar is independent chair of the Regulatory Board for Wales

 


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