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22 December 2023

Year in review: a look back at Community Housing Cymru’s progress and successes in 2023

Year in review: a look back at Community Housing Cymru’s progress and successes in 2023

The invaluable insights and views of our members have once again been at the heart of everything we set out to achieve in 2023.

From our political influencing work to our member service evolution, we have been committed to making real progress for housing associations across Wales.

As we head towards the end of 2023, we take a look back at how we made a difference to the sector this year.

January and February: planning ahead

At the start of every year our focus is on how we can make the greatest impact for housing associations and their tenants across Wales in the next 12 months

So, as we began 2023, we listened to our members’ feedback and insight, and began to incorporate their views into how we planned to work this year. We started refining our corporate plan for 2023-27, ahead of its publication in March.

To ensure our new corporate plan fully defined our role within, and commitment to, the sector over the next four years, we set out the proactive steps we will be taking to support housing associations to achieve their wide-ranging aims.

From the corporate plan we developed our delivery plan for 2023-24, setting out the actions and tactics we would take during the first year.

The first few months of this year also saw us developing our internal structure at CHC to strengthen our organisation. We started to build a new senior management team, bringing in the heads of services to streamline our overall management structure. We also added additional capacity and resources to our teams, and skills that can grow our commercial capabilities.

March: Governance and new corporate plan

March saw us welcoming delegates back to our in-person Governance Conference for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic. Held at the Radisson Hotel in Cardiff, it was an opportunity for colleagues to come together and explore how we could improve governance by looking at how effectively we listen, gain insight and integrate this into our services.

As mentioned above, this month also saw the launch of our corporate plan, which sets out the steps we will be taking to support our members to sustain their communities, while we continue to fight for the changes needed to achieve our collective vision of a Wales where good housing is a basic right for all.

Under the plan, we have a clear set of goals to attain by 2027, which we are confident will support the sector to bound forward once more - read more about our goals and the plan here.

April - September: shaping the sector

As we continued working to evolve and strengthen our member offer, we published our impact report, which looked at what we had done during the past six months and what progress we had made as an organisation.

During this time, we also continued our work with members to identify the tools and support they needed to achieve the new Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS).

Our policy team worked with members to prepare the sector, and to help shape the standard ahead of its publication in October. In order to help them to reach these aspirations, we are still continuing to work with Welsh Government and housing associations towards implementation.

As we looked to improve the standard of the homes being built, we were also working with Welsh Government to build a deeper understanding of progress on the 20,000 affordable homes target. It is clear that the people of Wales need more affordable homes, and as such we have been continuing to speak with our members and call for support as needed to remove any potential barriers.

As housing associations play a crucial role in alleviating and preventing homelessness, we also joined the Expert Review Panel, which later in the year, provided advice to the minister on legislative changes to end homelessness.

July: New head of member services and One Big Conference

With so much work going on to enhance all aspects of the work we do as a sector, we were delighted at CHC to bring members from across Wales together in July at our One Big Conference in Cardiff. This included a number of thought-provoking and impactful discussions from keynote speakers including adventurer Tori James.

As we continued to incorporate our members’ insight into how CHC works, we welcomed Louise Price-David as our head of memberships and partnerships to really drive forward our member-focussed approach.

Louise, who joined CHC after a 15-year career in the charity and public sector, has significantly enhanced our offering for members and commercial partners.

August: New head of policy

We also welcomed Elly Lock as our new joint head of policy and external affairs in August, as our policy and external affairs work continued to play a key role in our 2023 journey.

Elly has been instrumental as a lead on key areas throughout the year, including the development of social housing, and decarbonisation.

September: Member Communities

In September we began to introduce the new iteration of our member services. Building on insights and feedback directly from our members gained over the previous 18 months, we enhanced our existing services to give housing association colleagues more opportunities to connect with each other and experts; work on problems together; and tap into other resources. Find out more about the scope of our new member offer here.

Building on our previously popular SDG format, we introduced Member Communities, starting with our communications group this month. Complementing our enhanced task and finish group model, these communities are a space to connect, network and horizon scan together. Under this format, members are able to shape the conversation more, to ensure we are collectively focused on the most important long-term issues from housing associations’ perspective.

October: Supporting the sector with RAAC

Our strong relationship with our members was crucial to coordinating our response to risks identified around the use of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in October.

We supported housing associations as they assessed their homes in light of these new risks, and they continued to ensure that tenants felt safe and were kept informed. Read more about our work on RAAC here.

Later in the month, the new Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS 2) was published. After working with our members on this throughout the year, we continued to support them by encouraging knowledge and information sharing to help them continue working towards achieving the new standard. Read more here.

November: Addressing damp and mould

November 2023 marked one year since the conclusion of the inquest into the tragic death of Awaab Ishak. Since the tragic news was reported that his death was caused by exposure to damp and mould in his home, Welsh housing associations have been taking a critical look at how they address this type of disrepair in their own tenants’ homes.

To ensure there is transparency around our work in this area, we published an update explaining what the past 12 months looked like for our sector, and looking forward to what will be happening next - read our update here.

November: Annual Conference, Ends Won’t Meet, and Housing Matters campaign

We were delighted to welcome our members and partners from across the sector to Techniquest for our successful Annual Conference in November. Hundreds of people attended the two-day conference, and heard from industry-leading speakers and panellists. Take a look back at our gallery of photos from the event here.

November also saw the launch of our Ends Won’t Meet cost of living research report, which highlights the devastating impact the ongoing cost of living crisis is continuing to have on people on lower incomes, including people living in housing association homes.

Key stats from the research include:

Read the report, and find out more about our calls to the UK and Welsh governments, here.

After the conference, we once again launched our joint Housing Matters campaign with Cymorth Cymru, calling for an uplift in the Housing Support Grant to allow Welsh homelessness and housing support services to continue their vital work.

Our survey of housing associations and homelessness service providers found that:

  • 27% of support providers have had to reduce service capacity since the cash-flat
    Housing Support Grant budget for 2023/24;
  • 45% have not bid for a new, or retendered for contracts;
  • 10% have made staff redundant.

Read more about the Housing Matters campaign and research here.

December: New Housing Hub

Another part of our renewed member offer was launched in December: the Housing Hub. This new password-protected section on our website means that our members and housing association board members can find timely updates on our work, policy briefings, task and finish group information, useful resources and more within a few clicks. Find out more about the Hub here.

It’s been a busy 2023 filled with progress and further learning for the Welsh social housing sector. We’d like to thank members and partners for their ongoing support and engagement, and we look forward to working with them in 2024.