Wales politics

Welsh Government pledge to oppose housing associations status

Roof on new home Image copyright Thinkstock

A move which could limit new affordable homes being built in Wales will be opposed by the Welsh Government.

In September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced housing associations should be considered part of the public, not private, sector.

But the Welsh Government promised to take "whatever steps are necessary" to reverse the change, following concerns.

Community Housing Cymru (CHC), which represents housing associations in Wales, welcomed its pledge to act.

The ONS decision led to concerns that housing associations would no longer be able to borrow the money needed to provide new houses.

At the moment not-for-profit housing associations are considered to be in the private sector and can borrow as much money as they can afford, within certain regulations.

But CHC fears if finances were overseen by the UK treasury, the associations' levels of borrowing could be restricted, meaning they would not be able to build as many houses.

The Welsh Government has promised to provide 20,000 affordable homes over the course of the current assembly term.

Housing associations have warned the target may be unachievable unless action is taken to reverse the changes.

Stuart Ropke, chief executive of CHC, said: "We're obviously delighted that Welsh Government have confirmed they'll do whatever it takes to get us back into the independent sector.

"We've got a pact with the Welsh Government that'll see us delivering 13,500 homes towards the 20,000 target.

"We're absolutely confident that can be delivered but we were very clear when we signed the pact that this is one of the pieces in the jigsaw."

Image caption Stuart Ropke said the housing target was achievable

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "All Registered Social Landlords (housing associations) in Wales can be confident any issues resulting from reclassification, including any regulatory reform required, will be resolved in conjunction with the sector.

"We will take whatever steps are necessary, including legislating, to protect Registered Social Landlords' ability to finance building and improvements."

The ONS decision was based primarily on the level of government control over housing associations.

Steffan Evans, from the Wales Governance Centre, said: "I think it's a concern but people shouldn't be too worried because, whilst Welsh Government may lose some controls in legislation, it's still likely to have some control over the sector through the work of a regulatory team."

Last year, the UK government brought forward legislation to deregulate housing associations in England following an identical decision by the ONS.

The Scottish and Northern Irish governments are considering similar moves in response to the more recent announcement.

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