TPAS Cymru and WHQS 2: Our Key Responses
The original Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) was created by the Welsh Government to provide a common target standard for the condition of all existing social housing in Wales. A new set of standards to start in 2023 was recently released for consultation. The Standard lays out the standards for what all homes should have, to name a few: a good state of repair, safety and security, proper insulation and be well managed. This latest Standard is heavily concentrated around Net Zero and how Wales can achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. It is focused on timelines for Net Zero goals, featuring topics like tenant engagement and achievability of Net Zero.
The Welsh Government opened a public consultation on the WHQS 2023 for social housing tenants, landlords, representative bodies (like TPAS Cymru), members of the public, and technical experts to respond to the proposed standard and offer insight and opinions. TPAS Cymru responded to the WHQS2 consultation, and we want to share our key responses with you to create an honest and transparent discussion around what we think of these standards. Our response is based on online sessions with tenants and staff focused on WHQS2, Net Zero week and Tenant Pulse surveys on What Matters in your home, Energy Efficiency and Net Zero. Tenants really did shape our reply.
Here are key takeaways from our tenant led response!
We welcome that there is an updated and more challenging version of WHQS, as the original WHQS did good things to improve housing and tenants felt that there was a need for new higher common standards particularly around energy efficiency during this cost-of-living crisis.
There was support for the new standards on flooring, water saving measures and building on the basics of window, kitchens, etc included in this WHQS. We are delighted to see this!
The main question outstanding right now is how is Net Zero going to be paid for, and can it be done in 10 years? The numbers being discussed for paying for retrofit are eyewatering and needs a clear funding way forward – this needs to be discussed and decided upon urgently by stakeholders including tenants. Who is going to pay for Net Zero? Will it be landlords, government, or are tenants going to pay for it via inflation busting rent rises?
Tenants have stated strongly that they feel as though they are guinea pigs for NetZero who are being experimented on. This is unacceptable. There needs to be fairness and equity across all housing. Why should social housing tenants have gas boiler switched off a decade before anyone else, or be restricted on the flow of a shower or bath size when the same standards don’t apply to private tenants or homeowners? Building standards need to apply to all in the important fight against climate change.
Tenant engagement is key in the pathway to Zero! Tenant engagement needs to take place well before and continues after work is done in a tenant’s home. There are lifestyle changes that come with going Net Zero and landlords need to be transparent about what those changes could look like and provide support through the transition and beyond.
This support needs to include tenants who move into a void property that has new Net Zero systems (heat pumps, smart metres etc) that they are not used to and don’t know how to work? Who will be there to help them through the learning curve?
Wales has a brilliant opportunity to create long-term, skilled jobs through NetZero retrofit. We need urgent action from educational and procurement stakeholders.
Acceptable Fails – we need greater scrutiny and transparency of ‘acceptable fails’.
If you wish to read our full response it can be read here: TPAS Cymru WHQS Response
If we are aware of any other organisations responses being made public, we will publish links to them here:
Hannah Richardson @hannahtpascymru
NetZero Engagement officer