Think about your home. Is it safe, warm and weatherproof?

Somewhere you can return to at the end of the day and feel happy and comfortable?

I hope the answer is ‘yes.’ It should be. Because everyone should be able to live in a good quality home. It’s a basic need, and a basic right.

So whose job is it to make that happen?

To some extent, it’s ours. The public sector.

For starters, we have a role to play in making sure the conditions are right for commercial developers.

We need builders to build houses (albeit in the right places and to the right spec) so we can meet the needs of people looking to get on the property ladder, move to the area and so on.

But we have an even bigger role to play in providing social housing. Homes for people who aren’t in a position to buy their own property, or prefer not to.

It’s that social housing role I want to focus on in this article.

homes fit for heroes

Council housing has played a massive part in improving the quality of life in the UK since the end of the First World War, when then Prime Minister Lloyd George famously talked about ‘homes fit for heroes.’

The country was facing an acute housing shortage, and a lot of responsibility fell on councils – acting with guidance from central government – to build new homes that provided better conditions for working people.

After the Second World War, the housing shortage – exacerbated by bombing – was at its worst point in our history.

Again, councils helped lead the way, providing new housing and improving existing homes to meet the needs and expectations of post-war Britain.

That responsibility still sits with local councils and housing authorities today. And I’m very proud of that.

By helping to provide good homes, we make a lot of difference to a lot of lives.

what we’re doing in wrexham

Council housing in Wrexham

In Wrexham, we’re spending £54m on improving our council housing this financial year alone (2016/17).

This includes a £7.5m Major Repairs Allowance grant, which the Welsh Government awards to local authorities to help them achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard.

If you haven’t heard about the standard, it’s designed to make sure social housing landlords (like us) provide homes that meet the current and future needs of Wales’s residents.

All of our properties will need to achieve the standard by 2020, and with 11,300 homes to look after, that’s a big job.

So we’re getting stuck in.

As well as new kitchens and bathrooms, other improvements to electrical wiring, central heating and external wall insulation are being carried out on properties that need them.

Here’s some figures. By the end of March 2017, we hope to have…

• Offered new kitchens and bathrooms to 2,500 properties.
• Offered new heating systems to 600 properties.
• Re-wired around 900 properties.
• Re-roofed over 750 properties.
• Fitted external insulation to 187 properties.

We’re also supporting more specific housing needs. For example, First Choice Housing Association has opened a new facility in Wrexham for armed services veterans.

Called Ty Dewr (which means ‘Brave House’), it aims to help people who’ve left the armed forces, who are at risk of homelessness, adapt to civilian life – sometimes against a backdrop of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), disability and other challenges.

The centre provides accommodation, training and therapy in a peaceful setting on the edge of town.

It’s an inspiring place.

First Choice is also about to start a self-build project for veterans on land gifted to the project by the council.

building new homes

Like most local authorities, we haven’t been in a position to build new social housing for a long time.

We’ve been focused on managing our existing stock. And supporting other providers – like housing associations.

But for the first time in decades, we hope we’ll soon be in a position to consider building new council housing here in Wrexham.

It’ll depend on various factors, including funding. But if we can do it, it’ll be really exciting.

One thing is certain though. Councils are still at the centre of housing provision – through supporting private sector development and other social housing providers, and managing our own stock.

We can’t do it all by ourselves, and we don’t get it right all of the time, but we’re still striving to provide homes fit for heroes.

Because in some small way, nearly everybody is a hero.

And everybody deserves a good home.