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14 November 2012

Welsh housing associations - the bigger picture

Independent research suggests that the Welsh Government’s target of building 7,500 new affordable homes by 2015 can be achieved, but only if the current level of investment is sustained. This is according to a report by the Welsh Economic Research Unit (WERU), commissioned by Community Housing Cymru, which highlights that Welsh Housing Associations provided 1973 additional homes in 2011/12 – more than a quarter of the 7,500 target.

73% of the 1973 homes were built using social housing grant, the grant housing associations get from Welsh Government. However, with a predicted 40% cut in investment over the coming years, production could fall to around 850 homes a year, putting the target at risk.

The WERU report also focuses on the wider economic impact of the sector in the Welsh economy and at a time when private investment is scarce and public purse strings are being continually stretched, it highlights that housing led regeneration, delivered by housing associations, has played a key role in contributing to the Welsh economy.

Welsh Housing Associations spent £951million in 2011/12. This was an increase of 16% from the previous year and almost 80% of that spend was retained in Wales. The amount spent regenerating Welsh communities also increased to £493.2million, up 14% on the previous year. 57% of the regeneration spend was on repair and maintenance as housing associations bring their properties up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).

The contribution the sector made to employment also rose with 7,500 people directly employed by a housing association, but for every direct job provided, almost 2 other jobs were supported by the sector. In 2011/12 this amounted to 20,200 full time equivalents across Wales, a rise of 15% from the previous year.

The 2011/12 report includes one new stock transfer organisation, NPT Homes, which was formed when tenants from Neath Port Talbot council voted to transfer their housing stock to the new not-for-profit organisation.

Nick Bennett, Group Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru said: "This report demonstrates the role housing has in Welsh economic growth. Housing Associations are certainly doing their bit to help the Welsh economy but there’s more to do. Critically the social housing sector is the only area of major capital expenditure which is levering in so much additional private sector investment. This report is proof that investing in our sector not only provides much needed homes, but also acts as an economic stimulus. If current investment is not sustained, we are in danger of failing to reach the 7,500 target.”

Peter Cahill, Chair of Community Housing Cymru added: "If Wales is to recover economically policy makers need to invest in housing. By investing in our sector – a sector with ability and track record to deliver, we can build our way out of recession, create hundreds of jobs in the process while increasing supply to ensure that the people of Wales have access to secure and affordable housing, in communities where they want to live.”

The full WERU report can be downloaded here.