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Meeting new Welsh housing standards will be ‘incredibly challenging’ for Cardiff Council

Cardiff County Hall (pic: Google Maps)

MEETING new Welsh housing quality standards will be “incredibly challenging” for Cardiff Council, according to an authority official.

Cardiff Council’s assistant director for housing and communities, Helen Evans, made her comments during a discussion about the local authority’s budget at a social services scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, February 26.

At the meeting, the scrutiny committee’s chair, Cllr Rhys Taylor, said it is “concerning” that there isn’t enough clarity on what meeting the Welsh Government’s latest housing quality criteria – Welsh Housing Quality Standards (WHQS) 2023 – entails.

The Liberal Democrat councillor asked whether there should be an allocated amount in the budget for meeting the new standard, adding: “We don’t seem to be preparing for that in terms of the financial commitments… at this point”.

Rhys Taylor, Liberal Democrat councillor for Gabalfa, Cardiff (Pic: Ed Barnes)

The council’s cabinet member for housing and communities, Cllr Lynda Thorne, also said meeting the new standard will be challenging and criticised the Welsh Government for “wishful thinking”.

Cllr Lynda Thorne (Pic: Cardiff Council)

Answering Cllr Taylor’s question, Helen Evans said: “We just don’t know yet how much it is going to cost.”

Homes owned by housing associations and local authorities in Wales are required to meet a range of new requirements set out in WHQS 2023.

Homes that meet WHQS 2023 must have/be:

  • Affordable to heat and have minimal environmental impact
  • Fitted with an up to date kitchen and utility area
  • Fitted with an up to date bathroom
  • Safe and secure
  • In a good state of repair
  • Comfortable and promotes wellbeing
  • A suitable garden
  • An attractive outdoors space

Cardiff Council’s expects £114m to be required in its housing revenue account (HRA) for the 2024/25 financial year.

The HRA is a record of expenditure and income relating to council housing.

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Cardiff Council’s budget report says no money has been included in the HRA budget to reflect the impact of meeting WHQS 23 decarbonisation targets.

Ms Evans said: “What we have got, and it is in the HRA business plan, is how we will, over the next year or so, understand better what or how we are going to get our accommodation up to the necessary standards to be able to meet WHQS 23.

“The very simple answer is at the moment we just don’t know and therefore we can’t put a figure on it.”

However, the council has included in its HRA budget the estimated cost of some new requirements, like providing suitable flooring, water saving devices and external equipment storage.

Cllr Thorne said it could take years for the council to survey all of its properties in order to meet new WHQS requirements.

She said: “[It is] really disappointing that the Welsh Government keep coming up with this wishful thinking about the perfect life… without actually thinking properly how do you get there.”

She went on to add: “I just wish [they] would be realistic in their approach.”