27/12/2012

Tai Ceredigion warn of looming housing benefits crisis


Tai Ceredigion have warned that upcoming changes to housing benefit will mean serious financial problems for some people that could lead to increased homelessness in the county.

The not-for-profit housing association took over the County Council’s housing stock in 2009. Their Chief Executive, Steve Jones, now says,
“The Government’s 40% public sector capital cutbacks will inevitably reduce spending on housing and thereby compound the current desperate housing shortage. Whilst homelessness is often associated with cities, the rural situation is as bad, if not worse, because of the limited supply of accommodation available.

"There is a huge need for more social housing in Ceredigion to meet the needs of local people, many of whom are on very low incomes. These include working single persons and families who are going to be worst hit by the UK Government's changes to Housing Benefit for single persons under 35 years as well as the Bedroom Tax to be introduced in April 2013.

"The Bedroom Tax will affect working age tenants in homes where they do not use all bedrooms. There is widespread talk of people in their 40s and 50s ‘under occupying’  three-bedroom houses and that they should move to smaller one or two-bedroom accommodation - but in rural areas like Ceredigion, where are these properties? They simply do not exist and the UK 40% capital spending cut means there is a lot less Social Housing Grant available to build new smaller homes” . 

The Association has produced data and modelling to highlight the effect of the Westminster Government's Bedroom Tax on over 300 of Tai Ceredigion's tenants. They say this will mean the loss of around £180,000 per annum in Housing Benefit income for Tai Ceredigion tenants and therefore the local economy.

The planned cap on increases in benefits over the next three years contained in the Government’s recent spending announcement will also mean further reductions in income for tenants (including private sector tenants) for the next three years.

“This is going to lead to increased rent arrears and an increase in evictions and homelessness at a time when homelessness and numbers on the Social Housing Register is already increasing sharply,” says Steve Jones.

“Last year Tai Ceredigion more than doubled the number of properties made available to the Council for use as temporary accommodation, from 20 to over 40, but there is a real danger that the Council will be forced to put families with young children back into bed and breakfast accommodation.

"This housing crisis is going from bad to worse and we have specialist staff currently advising all of our affected tenants on benefits, so that we can prepare them as best as possible for these major cuts to their already low incomes."

Tai Ceredigion has 2227 rented homes and 137 leasehold dwellings in the county. Its charitable status ensures that income can be ploughed back into improving tenants’ homes and running the housing service.

12 comments:

  1. Sorry Alun. I've no sympathy with Tai Ceredigion or the housing industry.

    For many locals, Tai Ceredigion seems to be kept going by filling their properties with people from outside the county.

    There will always be people from outside the county or Wales in tenancy but Tai Ceredigion are only looking after their own future and staff. They want more people to get tenancy so that they keep going. It's an industry. They have to keep growing to show their worth, they'll attract many new clients/tenants just to keep themselves going.

    1. What % of Tai Ceredigion tenants speak Welsh?

    2. What percentage were educated in Wales?

    3. Do they advertise or encourage tenants from outside Wales to move to Ceredigion?

    I have great sympathy for people on tight incomes and having to deal with difficult neighbours - I've been there. But I'm very suspicious of Tai Ceredigion and will not subsidise the further minoritisation of my language. The Labour party leader now says people need to learn English and assimilate, how many Tai Ceredigion tenants assimilate?

    The rural situation is 'bad' as Steve Jones says because rural councils are told to accept tenants from outside the area. Sort that out, and one part of Tai Ceredigion's problems would diminish. But Tai Ceredigion don't want that - they want to be able to say they have more new clients / tenants.

    Sorry to be so negative. Sympathy for the individuals but not for Tai Ceredigion.

    The sooner the rentier economy of Ceredigion is undermined - Tai Ceredigion, HMOs, hotels advertising for 'clients' in English cities, second homes which aren't taxed, the better.


    Aber Resident

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    1. On the flip side to that point....Would you force council housed Welsh people in the UK return to back to Wales...Racism belongs to the dark ages friend...

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  2. Totally agree with the above comments. Plaid have pretty much gagged themselves on this issue because of political correctness.

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    1. Above reply applies to your comment also...

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  3. I was talking to one of your fellow councilers this week and of 5 homes available in Commins Coch, all 5 were filled with familes who where from outside Ceredigion and at least one member of each family had drug issues. His other comment was that a young family from Ceredigion can't be classed as homeless according to Tai Ceredigion because they can always go and stay with their parents, so houses always go to families from outside Ceredigion.

    This policy has overbearing knock on effect on the area and the schools. Commins Coch is far from alone.

    As the other's anonymous beings have stated. Sympathy with the individuals, little for Tai Ceredigion. How Tai Ceredigion treat their lease holders as 2nd class citizens is yet an other story !


    Be interested in your views.

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  4. I'm sympathetic to the broad views expressed here but it's important that we get a few things straight and don't wrongly apportion blame.

    Firstly, all the housing associations in the area - Tai Ceredigion, Cantref and Mid Wales Housing - run a Common Housing Register with the Council, using the same criteria. So, in terms of how housing is allocated, no organisation is better or worse than anyone else. This is regarded as best practice. The Register has to comply with the Housing Act 1996, the Homelessness Act 2002 and the Welsh Government's Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness.

    Ceredigion councillors have weighted the allocation system as far as they can in terms of prioritising local people (i.e. by awarding points on the waiting list for local residency). When they have examined in Scrutiny Committee how it can be weighted further they have been advised that going further would be against the law.

    I'm not involved with Tai Ceredigion now, so I've got no need to defend them, but the idea that they encourage people to move to Ceredigion is a total myth. Ceredigion has a housing waiting list of over 2,000 people. What would be the point? They couldn't house them anyway.

    I don't know how many Tai Ceredigion residents are Welsh-speakers. However all four of their Executive Team speak Welsh and the majority of the Board. This pre-dominance of Welsh speakers is deliberate policy on the part of the organisation which has bilingualism as one of its core values. By the way, I don't know what the situation is right now, but they're often looking for more Board members...

    Although this issue of who gets housing is given added importance in Ceredigion because of the language, I think it's actually a serious problem for the cohesion of local communities everywhere. It's just that everyone's room for manoeuvre is so severely constrained.

    There's lots more to be said of course. I just think it's important to start with an understanding of the restrictions that housing providers are working under.

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  5. Alun - the 2,000 waiting list is very suspicious. What is this list? It's a list of peole which outside authorities want to place in Ceredigion.

    Young local Welsh-speakers don't go Tai Ceredigion and other people in the Housing Busines - and it is a business - because they just stay at home and live with their parents until they can afford to move out

    I couldn't care less if Tai Ceredigion'n board were Welsh speaking. As a community we'd be better off it TC and the rest were wound up. They are a business. They want to say there are 2,000 people on their waiting list. What do you expect them to say, that there is no wating list?! If there was no waiting list TC and the rest would be out of a job! They've got a vested interest in having a long waiting list to give their business more clients.

    Plaid is boasting about increasing percentage of waste which is recycled. I'd like to see them giving as much time to increasing the % of Welsh speakers. Ceredigion's recycling of waste in the big picture of world ecology is totally insignificant, but it's % of Welsh speakers is totally critical. Housing and Tai Ceredigion have caused a lot of problems for the Welsh language and other social issues.

    IfPlaid doesn't implement tough policies to defend and promote the Welsh language - and that includes housing - then they're a waste of time.

    As for Tai Ceredigion and the rest I hope they go to the wall. Don't be conned by their 2,000 waiting list. They're only trying to feather their own beds. They need to say there's a waiting list of 2,000. Most young people from Ceredigion with families here don't go on the list they live at home. That's what I did. Why should I pay taxes to undermine the Welsh language?



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  6. The point I was making in my last response is that it's not Tai Ceredigion's waiting list. The list consists of people who live in Ceredigion, have applied for housing and are eligible to go on the Common Housing Register. The number was similar prior to the formation of Tai Ceredigion.

    It's not true to say young local Welsh-speakers don't apply to go on the list - they do, in droves. It's just that, as a generalisation, they frequently have the option of staying with their families whilst they're waiting. This, of course, places them at a disadvantage compared to people from outside who have lived in the area for just long enough to qualify and have more acute social needs.

    What I'm trying to get across is that this state of affairs is not even close to being Tai Ceredigion's fault - it's the fault of governmental housing legislation. I listed the various Acts etc in my last response. Tai Ceredigion have made little difference to the waiting lists, either one way or the other, because they're not empowered to do so. What they were mainly set up to do, and are doing, is to improve the condition of social housing in the area to conform to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard.

    Any discussion about this issue shouldn't ignore the fact that there is massively less social housing available now compared to thirty years ago, due to Thatcher's 'Right to Buy' coupled with hardly any building to make up the deficit. Of course, when more building is proposed to meet the demand, there is an outcry...

    Although I'm someone who believes in catering for the most needy, I think the legislative balance in housing has swung too far in this direction to the point where it's almost impossible for ordinary young local people (anywhere) to get social housing in their own locality. That, in my view, is causing serious problems to social cohesion everywhere and, in places like Ceredigion, to the Welsh language. It's just important that everyone understands where the problem really stems from.

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  7. Thanks for the insight. The view on the outside from myself and my anonymous friends is based on the outcome and what is right and just in an ideal world. Our pespective often ignores legal issues and some bastard [ as in they are not married ] hard tradeoff's which can only be seen from the inside an organisation where sunlight fails to shine. That is the value of blog such as this and one of the reasons I miss Wales@home and the article comments, but not some of the trolls.

    Is there some fear I should be living in by adding comment under my own name?

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  8. "Is there some fear I should be living in by adding comment under my own name?"

    No. Although I think being able to comment anonymously does have its uses (which is why this blog allows it), you set an excellent example of transparency and honesty.

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  9. Hi Alun,interesting discussion. I have heard similar views about social housing expressed to me in the past, but it is a delicate balance between prioritising need and supporting local people who do not have such pressing needs (ie people who already have homes)I know one local family who had to spend months in temporary accomodation, technically homeless, in order to get a council house and for a family (or even a single person) that can be quite an ordeal, which if you could you would probably try to avoid. Therefore people who can, do tend to find privately rented accomodation, or stay with their parents, which pushes them down the waiting list.
    Housing is now an area of devolved responsibility, and as I understand it the welsh housing minister is currently drafting a new housing bill, do you know much about the draft bill, as there was talk sometime ago of removing the 'right to buy'.
    I agree with you that the real problem is the overall lack of supply in the socially rented sector, and that is going to be difficult to overcome in the short term given the westminster governments priorities and the squeeze on lending from the financial sector (particularly for properties). It would be good if this new housing bill helps to facilitate housing co-operatives and co-housing, as this could present a kind of middle ground whereby people could rent a property while building up a stake or some equity in it (something like a mortgage arrangement) whereby the housing co-op would have first refusal if someone decided to move on but they would only have to pay a set figure based upon whatever the tenant has built up over time, which if the rent funds were sensibly managed they would already have set aside. Clearly it would take a bit of work and support to get the different co-operative models right, but it could provide an attractive offer and secure tenancies to working people who haven't got ten years to save for a deposit. (something for the wiki-manifesto perhaps)
    all the best,

    Owain

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  10. I'm actually a Welsh nationalist and I frequently hear sentiments about social housing being expressed by *some* other nationalists (usually outside of Plaid Cymru) that are negative. The views are at heart very pro-community but they wrongly apportion blame for the situation.

    Tai Ceredigion and other housing associations may well be businesses, but they're not for-dividend or free market businesses (as far as I know). The idea that they are deliberately shipping in outsiders is untrue.

    Although probably not an issue for Ceredigion (more pressing for south and north-east Wales), of equal danger to the Welsh social fabric is the very real risk that vulnerable people could be forced to move on mass to low-income areas of the UK by Conservative-Lib Dem welfare reform policy. Yet too often these Conservative policies are ignored and housing associations (who have no power over the legislatio or over welfare policy) are blamed instead.

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