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Welsh Tenants Federation sponsorship feature

Welsh Tenants Federation and WHQ team up to stimulate debate


16 September 2010 saw a successful AGM/one day conference for WTF attended by representatives of tenant led organisations from across Wales. For the first time, the event featured a WHQ debate which posed the question ‘Where are the future homes for the unemployed, low waged and elderly going to come from, and what form of security of tenure might they expect?’

WHQ Editor Tamsin Stirling chaired the debate which heard some interesting proposals from John Drysdale, Director of Tenant Participation Advisory Service Cymru, Keith Edwards, Director of the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, Duncan Forbes, Chief Executive of Bron Afon Community Housing and WTF Managing Director Steve Clarke.

John looked at things from four points of view – pragmatic, what the trends are, ideological and what the essentials of the future are. He noted that ‘we are talking about socially rented homes, not just emergency homes for vulnerable people – and certainly not over-generous support for a ‘bunch of slackers’. The focus for the future should be, he felt, bringing together agendas around affordable homes, climate change and regeneration/jobs.

Keith emphasised that access to affordable housing is a measure of how, as a society, we treat citizens. He felt that we need a lot of tools in the toolbox and that, although housing will not have the priority at a national level that we would like, at a local level, we will end up with a patchwork quilt of policy initiatives, including new models. But, he noted ‘if we had the political will, we could do a lot more’.

Duncan felt that removing security of tenure would be a bad idea and that we don’t have to do this in Wales just because it is being proposed in England. He proposed removing the Right to Buy discount, developing a Welsh based bond to enable people in Wales to invest in affordable housing as an ethical investment and developing a not for profit model of rental housing which would help to remove the stigma of renting. Lastly he proposed a measure that would need UK government action ‘we should tax owner-occupation, removing exemptions from Capital Gains Tax and use the money raised to subsidise new affordable rented housing’.

Steve highlighted the extent of housing need in Wales and the need for social housing, not affordable housing, as so few options are available for people who need social housing. Rather than Right to Buy, WTF think that people should have the opportunity to buy an equity stake in their homes. Other areas needing some attention are mobile homes and shared ownership. But most importantly, he said: ‘we need to build more social housing to meet current and future needs.’

A number of highly topical questions were raised by members of the audience:

  • how can we more effectively make the case for more investment in housing?
  • housing organisations want to build more homes and there are lots of people in housing need – where is the money going to come from?
  • should Right to Buy be stopped altogether or at least the money put into a pot to fund the building of more affordable homes for rent?

Whilst there were differences of opinion amongst the panel about terminology, Right to Buy and where investment in housing should go, there was agreement that:

  • a better argued case for investment in housing needs to be made particularly in the run-up to the 2011 Assembly election
  • new, innovative forms of funding will be needed in the years to come
  • we will need to look for other solutions, including co-operative solutions, learning from the experience of other countries
  • we need to ensure that large numbers of socially rented homes are not lost to Right to Buy in the future
  • we will need to make the best use of the resources we have, including empty homes

WHQ Editor, Tamsin Stirling, said: ‘WHQ was delighted to be asked to join up with WTF for a debate at the Better Homes-Brighter Future? AGM. One of the aims of the magazine is to stimulate debate and this was an ideal opportunity to do just that.’

The Welsh Tenants Federation
is the representative voice for
tenants in Wales.


01685 723922.

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