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Issue 131: Autumn 2023

Raising the bar

After a lengthy consultation across the sector, the new version of the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) has just been published.

Standards in general, and WHQS 2023 in particular, are the theme of this Autumn issue of WHQ. The focus, inevitably, is in decarbonisation and affordable warmth, but the implications range far and wide across the existing social housing stock in Wales.

Climate change minister Julie James introduces our special issue with an article outlining her hopes for WHQS 2023 and the thinking behind it.

We also hear from landlords across Wales about their plans for improving their stock and how WHQS fits into their wider ambitions for sustainable homes and communities. It’s already clear that the consultation on the standard has answered just some of the questions they have, in particular about funding for the work.

In our WHQ interview this time, we ask Shayne Cook, cabinet member for housing at Caerphilly, about the lessons the council learned from the previous WHQS and how it’s balancing investment in its existing stock with ambitious plans for new affordable homes.

Duncan Forbes also considers the experience last time around, alongside some key questions about the new standard and lessons from the approach to retrofit taken by Trivallis.

Other articles include Fiona Westwood on data requirements, Debbie Green on heating systems and insulation, Tim Balcon on skills and training and Ross Thomas on equalities requirements in the new WHQS.

WHQS is just one in a wide range of standards with an impact on housing. Max Hampton looks at the other side of the coin: the sometimes unintended consequences for housing design that can be generated by requirements in other areas. Some of our best historical places would not meet most modern standards, he argues.

October also saw publication of a second key policy document by Welsh Government: the white paper on homelessness. Ahead of a special issue on homelessness in our Winter edition, WHQ summarises the key proposals and reaction so far while Katie Dalton hails the contribution of ‘experts by experience’ to the recommendations of the Expert Review Panel.

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find articles on inclusion and the role of technology in housing for older people, the latest policy changes affecting private renting and the role of housing organisations in local economies. We also have the first in a new series of articles by Welsh housing professionals whose career has taken them outside Wales.

All that, plus all our regular features, make for even busier than usual issue of WHQ for this quarter.

Jules Birch, editor, WHQ

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