Unnos: folk law to reality

If we want to keep people warm in their homes this winter, and in future winters, we need to work fast and make Welsh homes energy efficient. Does Tŷ unnos hold the answer. Julie James MS thinks so and so do we at CEWales

Tŷ unnos is an old Welsh folk tradition where it was believed by some that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. But in the present the formation of 'Unnos' was part of the cooperation agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

At the end of September this year, the Climate Change Minister Julie James spoke to the Local Government and Housing Committee about implementing a progressive solution for Unnos. The Minister clarified that it will not be competing with any SME building firms to deliver social homes. WG are talking about a new company, not in competition with the private sector, it will be an enabler and accelerator.

Unnos’ role will be to speed up the housing planning and delivery process for housing development and to work with both the RSL’s, councils and SME’s to understand what the barriers are and help WG overcome those barriers to support new ways of collaborative working right across the housing sector and encourage schemes to be brought forward that promote innovation and partnership. WG imagine they will help them improve supply chains, understanding where the blockages are, advancing WG MMC techniques and WG’s capacity within the housing sector by looking at both the supply and demand ends of that and to deliver training and upskilling and address ongoing gaps in capacity and expertise like SUD’s, compulsory purchasing, planning, phosphates, groundworks skills and last but by no means least to bring empty homes back into use as rapidly as possible.

Unnos will also look at the whole issue of decarbonisation and insulation which WG want to accelerate given the cost of living crisis and problems in the energy market; so whether WG can improve access on improving the insulation in their homes, in particular helping the private rented sector to access that by looking at the categorisation for the Wales leasing scheme, where the landlord turns the house over to WG in return for guaranteed rent for at least 5 years where the insulation is improved as part of this deal as it will help the tenants with their energy bills.

If people cannot pay their energy bills, there is concerns they will also get into rent arrears over the Christmas period and exacerbate the homelessness problems.