The Welsh Government has recently launched a consultation for a new quality standard aimed at improving conditions of social housing in Wales. The Welsh Housing Quality Standard 2023 (‘WHQS 2023’) will apply to all Registered Social Landlords and Local Housing Authorities.
WHQS 2023 sets out 8 conditions which deal with the following:
- State of repair; safety and security; heating; kitchen and bathroom provision; comfort and wellbeing of occupiers; garden space; and attractive outdoor space.
The consultation also states that all social landlords will be required to develop and maintain a compliance policy, to be in place by the end of March 2025.
WHQS 2023 also seeks to make strides in bringing together digital connectivity, decarbonisation and the drive towards a Net Zero Wales. WHQS is a tenant focused standard and there should be a tenant consultation process when formulating the compliance policy.
WHQS breaks down the elements of each condition and how to meet the required standard – by using existing regulatory frameworks alongside to assess elements within each standard.
WHQS 2023 sets out eight conditions which must be met to achieve the standard:
- Good state of repair
- Safe and secure
- Affordable to heat and minimal environmental impact
- Up-to-date kitchen and utility area
- Up-to-date bathroom
- Comfortable and promotes wellbeing
- Suitable garden
- Attractive and practical outdoor space
A home will meet the standard when each element of the condition is achieved, the elements of each condition are set out in the WHQS 2023 policy paper.
The WHQS 2023 acknowledges that certain elements will not be applicable to all homes and has factored this in to the assessment process. Most homes will be either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ for each element of the conditions. There is a ‘conditional pass’ only to be used when work to enable compliance cannot be undertaken (e.g. because of physical constraints or heritage considerations). There is also a ‘temporary fail’ which may be used if the landlord is unable to comply due to matters out of their control such as a tenant refusal or where changes are part of a wider scheduled plan of works.
All social landlords are required to develop and maintain a compliance policy. This must be in place by the end of March 2025 and signed off by the Board for equivalent for LHAs.
In formulating a compliance policy, landlords will be required to assess their stock. This will involve detailed property surveys which will identify any works needed to meet the standard. A tenant consultation process must be carried and tenants’ views will need to be taken into account in the formulation of a compliance policy.
Landlords will then be expected to submit their policy to the Welsh Government.
A compliance statement should be issued at each re-letting, stating the standards which have been met and how any outstanding areas are being dealt with.
The deadline for responses to the consultation is 3 August 2022. The policy paper and the online response form can be found here.
The proposals, if implemented, will require landlords to review their current housing stock, identify how to comply with the standards and develop and enforce a compliance policy. However, this will also present an opportunity to understand what conditions current housing stock is in and develop up to date systems to monitor conditions in homes. This will be ever more critical as the Welsh Government continues to push for the improvement of housing conditions with the introduction of the Rental Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and the changes that will bring in a few months’ time.