Following a clear lead from the national assembly many local authorities in Wales are now considering stock transfer for all or part of their housing stock. Despite a rise in investment in social housing in England, Wales has seen investment fall and John Perry pointed out that unlike England, Wales has not been given any real alternatives. Therefore stock transfer is the only option.
It was argued that stock transfer appraisals must consider the needs of the community. The new agenda for social housing is about balanced communities, choice and diversity, social inclusion and regeneration and tenants should be involved in the whole process and not just expected to have a role in voting through the changes they will have to live with. There needs to be a fundamental change in approach from regarding tenants as the gatekeepers to stock transfer to tenants as drivers of change, argued Mr Hilditch.
Policy developments will impact on Wales and the work underway by the government on green and white papers on housing, urban and rural issues along with the spending review will shape the future of social housing policy over the next six months or so.
Peter Law, assembly secretary for local government, housing and the environment, gave a boost to the stock transfer process at the Chartered Institute of Housing in Wales branch conference by agreeing to look sympathetically on local authorities left with outstanding debt following stock transfer.
In response to a question from the floor about the costs to local authorities of the stock transfer process he expressed the strong view that local authorities should not suffer from the stock transfer process. He remarked that he expected that most local authorities will be able to pay off loan debt with transfer receipts but that those who could not may receive a grant or ongoing support to cover the debt.
He confirmed the national assembly's stance that there is no real alternative to stock transfer and offered to personally meet with local authorities of tenants groups contemplating stock transfer to answer their concerns. Favouring the community ownership model he said that this gave a key role to tenants and council members in the future of the stock. Stock transfer is the only viable option of tackling the backlog of repair in council housing estimated to stand at between£750m and£1bn for Wales.
Law also took the opportunity of the conference platform to announce a 75% increase in funding for projects aimed at tackling homelessness. There would also be a one off allocation of£3.6m for local authorities to work up private sector housing strategies aimed at regulating houses in multiple occupation (HMO) with nomination rights for people in housing need.
Peter Law celebrated the national assembly's achievement of its aim to ensure national coverage by care and repair agencies. Funding will be increased by£200,000 in 2000/01 and new schemes in Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen will mean that there is a care and repair agency serving every area of Wales. 'That is something that even Care and Repair Cymru doubted we could achieve,' said Mr Law.
A question from the floor about the assembly secretary's views on the forthcoming Housing Green Paper saw Mr Law adopting a bullish stance. Acknowledging that legislative changes made will impact on Wales (as it has only secondary legislative powers) he said that he was more interested in the outcome of the four task groups working on the national housing strategy and in ensuring that devolution produced 'tailor made solutions for Wales'.