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Issue 126: Summer 2022

Squaring the circle

The impact of the cost of living crisis on tenants and rising materials and labour costs on landlords and developers would represent severe challenges for the Welsh housing sector in their own right.

We reported in the last issue of WHQ on the cost of living in general and soaring energy prices in particular and those pressures have only increased in the last three months with implications for tenants and landlords alike. However, landlords are having to cope with those pressures against a backdrop of tightening regulations, standards and targets and that is the focus of this Summer issue.

Each of these measures has the potential to bring huge benefits for anyone living in Welsh homes but each also brings challenges in its wake and a balance must be struck.

As Laura Courtney explains, the target of 20,000 low-carbon social homes will deliver homes that are affordable and energy efficient and help tackle climate change, but problems caused by environmental regulations, planning and rising construction costs also have to be tackled.

The proposed Welsh Housing Quality Standard 2023 promises improvements to and decarbonisation of existing social homes – but how will they be funded and how can those benefits be best explained to tenants? Debbie Green and Howard Toplis present views from different housing associations while Sarah Prescott looks at the issues that need to be considered in financing WHQS.

Meanwhile Craig Sheach of the Design Commission for Wales gives an architect’s perspective on standards, arguing that they can sound a great way of improving quality but can also be the enemy of good design.

Moving on from physical standards, the new Renting Homes regime will mean big changes in the law that will finally be implemented at the start of December following representations from landlords about the work involved. Former Law Commissioner Martin Partington on the benefits that the new regime will bring while Shelter Cymru’s Jennie Bibbings says no-fault evictions are soaring and tenants urgently need increased protection.

On the most important standards of all, we look at the continuing fire safety crisis in Wales, with signs of progress at last following movement by the UK Government but frustration among leaseholders that help is not coming fast enough.

Elsewhere in this issue you will find local authority perspectives from Jason McLellan, the new leader of Denbighshire, and Nick Taylor-Williams, head of housing at Caerphilly. On homelessness and housing support, we hear from Alex Osmond on Housing First and rapid rehousing and Joy Williams on the legacy of the Housing Support Network.

We hope that all that, plus all our regular features, will give readers a sense of the challenges ahead and how the circle can be squared.

Jules Birch, Editor, WHQ

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