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Policy update



LHA freeze ends for now

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) should be automatically uprated every year in line with the 30th percentile of local rents, says an influential all-party House of Commons committee.

The recommendation from the Work and Pensions Committee backs evidence that freezing LHA rates forces tenants to make up rent shortfalls from their other benefits and pushes them into homelessness or poor-quality housing.

LHA rates were frozen for four years until they were restored to the 30th percentile earlier this month. However, most tenants will find that they will still not cover rents that rose by a record 9 per cent in the year to February and a new freeze in LHA rates is set to start in April 2025.

Higher LHA rates this year will also mean that more tenants will be caught by the benefit cap, which has only been increased once since it was introduced in 2013.

MPs on the committee, which has a Conservative majority, also recommended that the benefit cap and other allowances should be uprated each year.


Gove hits trouble with reforms

The Westminster government’s manifesto commitment to abolish Section 21 no-fault evictions in England is being watered down after a rebellion by backbench Tory MPs.

The Renters (Reform) Bill was originally introduced in the House of Commons in May 2023 but was stalled at the report stage until ministers wrote to all Conservative MPs setting out a series of amendments that will be introduced when it returns to the Commons after the Easter recess.

These include one stipulating that Section 21 will only be scrapped for existing tenants after an assessment of the impact on the county court possession system and another preventing tenants from ending their tenancy in the first six months.

The Renters’ Reform Coalition said the government had struck ‘a Faustian bargain with the landlord lobby’ and was ‘selling renters down the river with concessions that will out off the vast majority of renters from feeling the benefit of these reforms indefinitely’.

Housing secretary Michael Gove also seems to be struggling to pass some of the measures in his Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, much of which will apply in Wales.

As Labour MP Mark Tami argues in this issue (p17), the Bill should make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to extend leases but does not include other measures such as a ban on new leasehold flats and the abolition of forfeiture.

Gove is consulting on a plan to reduce ground rents on existing leaseholds to a nominal sum but this is opposed by property interests and is reportedly being blocked by the Treasury and Number 10. 


Holyrood to introduce new rent controls

New legislation from the Scottish Government proposes long-term rent controls for private tenancies and new rights and stronger protection from eviction for renters.

The Housing (Scotland) Bill will also introduce an ‘ask and act’ duty on social landlords and public bodies such as health boards and the police. They will have to ask about a person’s housing situation and act to avoid them becoming homeless wherever possible.

Rent controls feature in the New Deal for Tenants that forms a key part of the Bute House Agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party.

The Bill creates a power for Scottish ministers to introduce rent control areas. Where an area is in place, rent rises could be capped during and in between tenancies.

Rents in Scotland rose by 10.9 per cent in the year to February, according to the Office for National Statistics, the highest increase in any UK nation.

Target ‘at risk’ as housing budget cut

The Scottish Government confirmed plans to cut £196 million from the affordable housing budget in its Final Budget for 2025/26.

Ministers said they were passing on a cut in its capital budget from Westminster but the decision drew criticism from across the housing sector and housing minister Shirley-Anne Sommerville admitted that the target to build 100,000 affordable homes by 2032 is now ‘at risk’.

Writing in this issue of WHQ (p13), Carolyn Lochhead, director of external affairs at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, says: ‘We are now in new and uncharted waters, in which Scotland’s admirable record on affordable rented housing is under serious threat.’


Restoration of devolution paves way for reform

Devolved government returned to Stormont after the political parties agreed to resume power sharing.

The end of the political impasse clears the way for progress on key housing issues including reform of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Options include restructuring it as a mutual or co-operative or negotiating with the UK Treasury to allow more borrowing.

Writing in this issue of WHQ (see p12), Justin Cartwright, national director of the Chartered Institute of Housing Northern Ireland, says: ‘The reinstatement of devolved government in Northern Ireland heralds a new chapter in the quest for equitable and sustainable housing. While challenges abound, the spirit of resilience and determination ingrained within the housing family paves the way for transformative change.’


First minister reshuffles cabinet

Julie James retained the housing brief within a reshaped portfolio in a Welsh Government reshuffle by new first minister Vaughan Gething.

She became cabinet secretary for housing, local government and planning in the new administration with her former climate change brief transferring to Huw Irranca Davies as cabinet secretary for climate change and rural affairs.

Other notable appointments included Jayne Bryant as minister for mental health and early years and Jeremy Miles, the unsuccessful candidate for the Welsh Labour leadership, as cabinet secretary for economy, energy and Welsh language.

One former housing minister, Rebecca Evans, is cabinet secretary for finance, constitution and cabinet office, while another, Lesley Griffiths, is cabinet secretary for culture and social justice.

During the leadership campaign, Vaughan Gething promised to speed up the building of social housing and incentivise innovations such as modular housing to deliver homes with lower running costs at a faster pace.

He said: ‘I’m incredibly proud to bring together a government drawn from all parts of Wales to serve the whole of our nation, with progressive politics at its heart. In particular, I am pleased to appoint a minister for mental health and early years to ensure we deliver in the first 1,000 days of the life of every child.

‘I believe in a Wales that recognises that we can celebrate our differences and take pride in all those things that draw us together and make us who we are. While there will be many challenges ahead, there are even greater opportunities. I am ambitious about the work this team will do to make Wales an even better place.’

The full Welsh Government cabinet is as follows:

  • First minister – Vaughan Gething
  • Counsel general-designate – Mick Antoniw MS
  • Cabinet secretary for economy, energy & Welsh language – Jeremy Miles MS
  • Cabinet secretary for health & social care – Eluned Morgan MS
  • Cabinet secretary for finance, constitution & cabinet office – Rebecca Evans MS
  • Cabinet secretary for housing, local government & planning – Julie James MS
  • Cabinet secretary for education – Lynne Neagle MS
  • Cabinet secretary for North Wales and transport – Ken Skates MS
  • Cabinet secretary for climate change & rural affairs – Huw Irranca Davies MS
  • Cabinet secretary for culture and social justice – Lesley Griffiths
  • Chief whip & Trefnydd – Jane Hutt MS
  • Minister for social partnership – Hannah Blythyn MS
  • Minister for mental health & early years – Jayne Bryant MS
  • Minister for social care – Dawn Bowden MS.

Consequentials boost Final Budget

Finance minister Rebecca Evans found £10 million in extra funding for social housing and homelessness prevention in the Welsh Government’s Final Budget for 2024/25.

She said she was able to make more changes than usual to the Draft Budget in the wake of funding consequentials from UK Government after increases in spending in devolved areas in England during this financial year.

She said: ‘This information has come through very late in the year. At £231 million, the additional revenue represents around two-thirds of our reserve capacity.

‘If we had had this information when we were managing our difficult in-year position we could have made some different choices this year, and avoided making some of the more difficult decisions. However, it does mean that we can make almost £190 million of extra allocations in the Final Budget for next year.’

The headline extra allocations include funding for local government and schools, £40 million in new capital funding for the NHS, £30 million for the Holyhead Breakwater and a £20 million fund to support small and medium sized businesses.

There are also ‘a number of Financial Transactions capital allocations, including up to £20 million to progress housing proposals, continuing to support additional social housing to help tackle homelessness, and the associated indirect costs including poorer health, employment and educational outcomes’.

Community Housing Cymru (CHC) said the Final Budget background documents detail a £5 million increase in Social Housing Grant compared to the Draft Budget.

CHC chief executive Stuart Ropke said: ‘There is huge potential for housing associations and others to not just build more housing, but build the right housing in the right places for the people of Wales now and for many years to come. The additional funding today is a really welcome step in the right direction, but there is more to be done.’

After the Draft Budget, CHC and Cymorth Cymru criticised a continuing freeze in Housing Support Grant, warning that an increase in line with inflation was needed to stop services collapsing and to pay a fair wage to frontline workers.

The Final Budget documents detail an extra £5 million allocated to the Homelessness Support and Prevention budget line.

Stuart Ropke said: ‘This is a welcome increase. We will continue to work with Welsh Government to ensure that as much additional funding as possible is allocated to the Housing Support Grant.’


Open consultations of interest to WHQ readers include:

Proposed changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme – responses by 6 June


Pobl and Linc complete ‘large and local’ merger  

Pobl Group and Linc Cymru have formally completed a merger process to brings together two of Wales’ leading registered social landlords.

They say they will form a partnership that will significantly enhance the provision of social housing and care and support services across Wales.

The newly expanded group will manage more than 23,000 homes in Wales, with plans to deliver more than 4,500 new homes over the next five years. The group will employ more than 3,000 people.

Scott Sanders (right), chief executive officer at Linc, has been confirmed as the new CEO of Pobl Group, with Amanda Davies stepping down after leading Pobl for more than 20 years. Julia Cherrett (left), chair of Pobl Group, will continue in her role.

Julia Cherrett said: ‘The two organisations are a good fit in so many ways. Culturally, we share similar values and attitudes, strategically we have similar ambitions and complementary expertise, while geographically we both operate primarily along the M4 corridor. This is an exciting opportunity for customers and colleagues alike.’

Scott Sanders said:  ‘There has never been a more important time for the Welsh housing sector to get closer to communities and help generate outcomes that truly enhance lives and wellbeing. With this in mind, the merged group has its eyes set on delivering community-focused services and investment programmes. With the strong partnerships we hold, we are perfectly placed to make the difference our customers want. The scale of the group brings many business benefits, not least our goal to be large and local.’

Pobl Group operates across Wales and prior to merging with Linc managed more than 18,000 homes, providing care and support to almost 17,000 individuals and employing over 2,000 people.

Established in 1977, Linc Cymru is an independent business with 5,500 homes, providing housing for rent and sale, together with the provision of care and support services for people in need. A non-profit distributing business with all surpluses being reinvested to further expand their activities.

Outgoing CEO Amanda Davies said: ‘This merger marks an exciting new chapter for Pobl Group and Linc Cymru. The Group will be better equipped to address the evolving needs of our customers and communities, particularly during challenging times driving positive change and making a lasting impact across Wales. The merger also provides opportunity for colleagues as part of a larger organisation.’

Linc Cymru will operate as a subsidiary of Pobl Group, alongside Pobl Group Homes & Communities, Pobl Group Care & Support, Pobl Living, Pobl Development Ltd, Pobl Trust, Tai Cartrefi Cyf and Arloes Ltd.

For an in-depth look at mergers and their implications, see articles in this issue of WHQ.

RAAC risks identified in Hirwaun

Trivallis advised 40 households to immediately move out of their homes due to risk of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

Survey work on its properties in the Hirwaun area identified issues with the roofs and ceilings connected to the material.

Trivallis has RAAC in 60 of its homes on the Gower estate in Hirwaun. There are another 17 properties on the estate belonging to private owners which are built in the same way.

The housing association said it was recently told that in one of its homes, the RAAC was a critical risk – this could be the same in 40 other homes which are of a similar design and construction.

Chief executive Duncan Forbes said: ‘Thanks to the co-operation of tenants in giving us access to their homes, we’ve been able to get a much clearer picture of the RAAC situation in each property.

‘Our next course of action involves conducting comprehensive structural surveys across all 60 Trivallis properties. These surveys will enable us to formulate tailored plans for every household by mid-April. Since every home is unique, the plans for each household may vary in terms of timing and what needs to be done. We are committed to working with each household individually to agree a specific plan for them.

‘In the meantime, we are assembling a team of engineers who have specialist skills in RAAC remediation. We are also finding alternative homes so that when people do need to move, we can offer them a suitable housing solution.

‘We have allocated a dedicated neighbourhood manager to the Gower estate for the foreseeable months. She will be visiting all tenants twice a week, offering support and addressing any concerns that may arise.’

RAAC is a form of lightweight concrete that was used in constructing many public buildings in the 1950s and 1960s. Incidents in schools in England last summer prompted wider concern about the safety risks and led to action to assess the wider public estate, including social housing.

All social landlords in Wales were asked to assess their stock for the presence of RAAC in September. The process included establishing when inspections were last undertaken and where none could be identified, detailed surveys of properties built within the relevant RAAC timeframe.

Caerphilly buys homes via TACP

Caerphilly County Borough Council has bought privately owned properties to provide housing for families who would otherwise find themselves in temporary accommodation.

To date, the council has accessed funding via Welsh Government’s Transitional Accommodation Capital Programme to purchase and renovate 17 homes in the Caerphilly borough. The funding, part of Welsh Government’s work to tackle and prevent homelessness, has also been used by the council to modernise four of its own properties for the same purpose.

Cllr Shayne Cook, cabinet member for housing, said: ‘In recent years we have seen a significant increase in people presenting to the council as homeless and, given the current cost of living and housing crises, are likely to see this number grow.  This places enormous pressure on existing resources and temporary accommodation.

‘I am delighted to see the council purchase and renovate 17 homes in the Caerphilly borough which will provide much needed suitable accommodation for those experiencing homelessness. The council has provided over £1 million of its own monies alongside £3 million of Welsh Government funding enabling us to purchase these properties.’

Valleys to Coast appoints new chair

Valleys to Coast appointed former Pobl Group chief executive Amanda Davies as the new chair of its board.

Amanda joins the Bridgend-based housing association this month, bringing with her a wealth of experience from her career in housing, care and support services alongside board positions at the heart of Welsh regeneration and charitable causes.

She will step into the shoes of retiring chair Anthony Whittaker, who bids farewell to Valleys to Coast after five years at the helm.

Amanda will work closely with the association’s group chief executive Joanne Oak and the executive team providing strategic advice and scrutiny as the business continues its growth as one of the leading social housing landlords in Wales.

Valleys to Coast was the first Welsh association to be established as part of a large-scale voluntary transfer of local authority housing stock in 2003, taking ownership of over 6,000 homes from Bridgend County Borough Council.

Amanda Davies said: ‘I’m excited about working with the board, Joanne Oak, and her team, to make sure that Valleys to Coast is a resilient organisation delivering for our customers and communities.’

Joanne Oak said: ‘Amanda’s passion for putting customers at the heart stood out in a very strong field of candidates for the role – something recognised by our customers who supported our recruitment and shared their questions and experience as part of our interview process.

‘We very much look forward to working with Amanda and benefitting from her experience and expertise.’

…and launches new repairs subsidiary

Valleys to Coast launched a new property repairs and maintenance company with a promise to bring dependable, refreshing and consistent services to Valleys to Coast customers.

Llanw will provide property services for over 6,000 homes across the Bridgend borough. The name means tidal in Welsh and was chosen as a representation of its commitment to adapt and respond to the constant movement and changes of its customers’ needs, just as nature and people adapt to the ebb and flow of the tides.

Valleys to Coast Group announced its plans to create a wholly owned subsidiary last year in response to customer feedback that indicated a new approach was needed to improve satisfaction around repairs and maintenance services.

Group Chief Executive Joanne Oak said the launch signalled ‘a fresh approach to repairs and maintenance for our customers’.

‘We listened when they told us they wanted better services from us, and with their valued input we have created a subsidiary company with a complete focus on providing quality property services to support safe and happy homes.’

Llanw managing director Paul Price said: ‘We have carried out extensive engagement with Valleys to Coast customers and have built Llanw around their feedback and needs.

‘We are pleased to be offering an improved service with extended hours and more flexibility that will help us respond to requests more quickly and conveniently.’

‘As well as supporting improved customer service, we are providing quality employment and training opportunities to support local people and the local economy, and we look forward to more growth as the company drives forward.’


1) Benefit levels in the UK

House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, March 2024


2) Housing need and desirability

Tyfu Tai Cymru, Februrary 2024


3) Homelessness, refugees and resettlement in the UK

Centre for Homelessness Impact, January 2024


4) Dwelling on it: Housing crises in the English speaking world

Social Market Foundation, March 2024


5) Living Rent that works: unlocking genuinely affordable homes for thriving lives

Centre for Social Justice, March 2024


6) Bringing private homes into social ownership can rewire the housing system

Joseph Rowntree Foundation, March 2024


7) The economic impact of building social housing

CEBR, Shelter, National Housing Federation, February 2024


8) Housebuilding market study

Competition & Markets Authority. February 2024


9) Evaluation of the Housing First pilots

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, February 2024


10) Prevention in health and social care: healthy places

House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, January 2024


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