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29 July 2021

Policy priorities

Policy priorities
2020/21 may have been dominated by Covid-19 and the Senedd elections in Wales, but the policy team at Community Housing Cymru has continued to work on other key areas alongside the more reactive elements of their day job. Here, our Policy and External Affairs Managers set out what their main focus is at the moment:

Bethan Proctor leads on our decarbonisation and building safety priorities. This is what she’s currently working on:

“Decarbonisation is a key priority for housing associations. The Welsh Government has set in law the target to reach net-zero by 2050, and with homes being responsible for 15% of all demand-side greenhouse gas emissions in Wales, housing plays a key part in decarbonising the nation.

What heating technologies should we use? How will this be funded? Are the right skills in place? These are all key questions that housing associations are currently asking themselves. We use our Strategic Delivery Groups (SDGs) which are made up of our members to refine our policy in this area and to better understand the challenges that housing associations are facing. These spaces allow the sharing of best practice and work that’s ongoing around the building good quality, low carbon homes and the retrofitting of existing homes so that they are more energy-efficient.

I also work closely with the Welsh Government and other external partners to share information, solve problems, and influence decision-making.

I am currently working together with our Business Development team to organise a Decarbonisation Conference which will engage, support, and motivate social landlords to undertake decarbonisation programmes at pace and scale. This follows a hugely successful one-day conference that we held in 2019.

Working on this important issue is incredibly fulfilling as we try to ensure housing is at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency.”

Will Henson covers the homelessness brief for CHC. Here’s why his work is so important:

“Along with our member housing associations, we believe that good housing should be a basic right for all. However, despite delivering over 20,000 affordable homes over the past five years, we’re still some distance to achieving our mission.

As long as the housing crisis continues, housing associations remain focused on providing homes and support for people facing homelessness across Wales. This support has never been more crucial than over the past year and a half. During the first year of the pandemic, housing associations responded by providing close to half of their available homes to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, ensuring they had a safe place to live.

Alongside responding to the immediate crisis, our long-term work to end homelessness in Wales continues. We are working closely with Shelter Cymru and others to ensure that no one becomes homeless from social housing, through building partnerships locally and nationally, encouraging a cross-public sector response to homelessness including the health service and councils.

Wales is reforming its approach to tackling homelessness, with rapid rehousing and Housing First set to significantly reduce the amount of time anyone should spend without a home and the risk of homelessness recurring. Housing associations have the drive and expertise to deliver this change and I’ll continue to work closely with our members, stakeholder, and government to make it a success.”

Making sure rents are affordable to tenants is hugely important to housing associations in Wales, that’s why Hayley Macnamara’s work is focused on this policy area. She explains what that involves:

“Housing associations must ensure that their rents are affordable to tenants, and will work with their tenants to make sure that the cost of rent is reflective of the local area. I work with our members to put in place a package of support to assist them with their affordability considerations when they undertake their annual rent reviews. This is an ongoing work programme and it includes a set of tools and resources for housing associations to use to determine affordability for tenants, including the development of our online Rent Affordability Tool and Affordability Principles.

I also work to improve understanding and provide reassurance of the sector’s commitments to affordability by communicating our work to external stakeholders. I also work closely with colleagues in the communications team, and comms teams across the sector, to make sure that the language we use is clear and accessible to tenants, and to understand any challenges there might be.”

For Laura Courtney, attention is firmly on Universal Credit, and the impact any changes might have on housing association tenants in Wales. She has been working with Sarah Scotcher, Policy & External Affairs Project Officer to understand what that impact looks like across our membership. Sarah explains what’s involved here:

“Back in April 2020, the Universal Credit standard allowance was increased by £20 per week as part of the UK Government Covid-19 response. The uplift is currently due to end in September 2021 and, as this cliff-edge draws ever closer, the impact of this change is becoming increasingly stark.

Housing associations in Wales have been working with tenants to understand the impact of the extra £20 per week. The results have been unequivocal: this increase to Universal Credit has made a huge difference. It has meant that the benefit is now sufficient to help them afford basic costs such as food, heating, and connectivity while on low incomes or looking for work - and the impact of it stopping would be devastating.

We are working closely with our sister federations in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, joining forces to persuade the UK Government to reconsider ending the uplift. We are also supporting our members with a joint campaign to raise awareness among affected tenants so that they can prepare as much as possible.”

We are also looking for someone to join the Policy team, to focus on health as well as two Head of Policy and External Affairs to oversee this work and lead on influencing. If this sounds like you, and you look the sound of joining this dynamic team, find out more and apply here:

https://chcymru.org.uk/en/view-job/policy-external-affairs-manager-18months

https://chcymru.org.uk/en/view-job/head-of-policy-external-affairs-roles