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Council houses being built in Wrexham for first time in 30 years – Council reinvesting £1m a week into housing stock

Wrexham Council are ‘proud’ that they are building new council houses for the first time for thirty years, as a new housing strategy is unveiled for the next five years.

27 new houses are being built on the former Nant Silyn Care Home in Caia Park and in Plas Madoc, with others also being purchased from the open property market.

Wrexham Council acts as a social landlord with over 11,100 housing units, and has the first building programme in 30 years underway as part of the ‘Build and Buy Programme’ that aims to deliver an increase in affordable housing.

Previously the 11,100 figure has been broken down into Bedsits 43, Bungalows 1052, Flats 2444, Houses 6976, Sheltered Accommodation 656.

Councillor David Griffiths explained: “These are what we hope are the first of many, however land supply will be our problem, as in past times we had to give the land to social registered landlords. Now that has changed and we are allowed to do it. We are going to look at land in our ownership.”

“This is not a one off fix, it will be an ongoing programme.”

Cllr Griffiths said the biggest local waiting list demand is for single accommodation units, but the council are ‘trying our best’ to accommodate everyone who comes to them, or via their partners.

Cllr Griffiths said that Wrexham Council have bought back some ex-council houses however such properties ‘have to meet a certain criteria’,.

He explained: “We have already bought back ex-council house properties. It is in the single figures, but we have to start somewhere.

“It is a very positive move that we have bought them. The more popular areas we are giving them consideration.”

The council is ‘in talks’ with some developers with a view to purchasing houses off plan. One apparent difficulty is the council’s requirement to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS), and a possible gap between that and what is being offered on the open market, especially when it comes to space. Although councillors would not be drawn on the topic, although it appears the WHQS could require in excess of what the private market offers at times.

During 2017-18 a total of £56,386,831 was spent bringing Council housing stock up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, with a projected total investment of £139,809,865 by 2020, when all homes will have achieved this standard.

Wrexham Council is spending around £1,000,000 a week on it’s housing stock via it’s ring-fenced Housing Revenue Account, with a common question whenever we run stories on such investment being contrasted to the council’s overall budget woes and cutbacks.

We asked Cllr Griffiths for a quick explainer, he told us: “Because the borrowing cap has been lifted by Welsh Government we can borrow more than we had before, but we borrow on the rents that are coming in.

“It is the same as if you have your income at home, what comes in through the door, you can purchase your car house or holidays.

“We only work within what comes in off rent, nothing comes from the councils budget, it is all from the Housing Revenue Account.”

Council Leader Mark Pritchard, who was the former lead member on the topic, added: “It is a separate account from the council account for obvious reasons. It comes from the income generated from the rents and comes back to us from Welsh Government.

“It is fantastic we are investing back in our council housing, because our residents and tenants pay the rent, so they should have all the changes they require, such as new kitchens, bathrooms and new fascia boards and long may it continue.”

The report before councillors next week also contains wider housing data, including the following stats on home ownership in Wrexham:

The Council is one of the largest stock-retaining local authorities in Wales. The following tables provide details of the current Council stock:

The following graph is also included, that shows the right to buy sales over time.

Since 1989, the Right to Buy has allowed Council tenants to purchase their home at a discounted price. Following a national consultation exercise, Welsh Government has announced that the Right to Buy will cease in early 2019. Tenants can apply to purchase their property up until 25 January 2019. After this date, no further applications will be considered. Since its introduction, The Council has sold 7,780 properties. It has not been possible to replace them with new Council homes meaning a net loss of units.

Councillors will consider the report on Tuesday.

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