Housing in a Wellbeing Economy

In May 2023, WE Cymru hosted an engaging online panel discussion focused on Wales’ housing system and the need for a Wellbeing Economy approach. The event shed light on the crucial role housing plays in our economy, as well as the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and the environment. The discussion featured six insightful speakers who highlighted the importance of housing as a basic need and explored innovative solutions to ensure everyone has access to adequate housing.

You can catch up on the event recording here:


Linda Whittaker, CEO of Tai Tarian, set the stage for the discussion, emphasising housing as “essential for all”, referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. She touched on the contrasting views of housing as a basic need with a right to a home for life versus housing as a commodity for profit or insurance. Tai Tarian’s efforts in Neath Port Talbot, where they transformed difficult properties into improved homes, were highlighted. Notably, they achieved an Energy Performance Certificate A (EPCA) rating for all new builds, signalling Wales’ commitment to sustainable housing- the only RSL in the Uk to do this.

Charlotte Hale, from SO Modular, underscored the urgency to adopt offsite construction methods, such as timber frame, panelised modular, volumetric systems speed with onsite construction. She spoke passionately about the need for sustainable housing solutions, given the pressing global issues of climate change and carbon emissions. Charlotte highlighted the importance of using biobased materials and modern methods of construction to reduce the environmental impact of the housing sector.

Rowland Jones, Chartered Surveyor and Private Landlord, shared his perspectives as a chartered surveyor and private landlord, acknowledging the challenges faced by the market, including a lack of available housing stock and regulatory changes impacting small landlords. He discussed the need for a long-term investment approach in the private rented sector given the number of units in the sector.  Rowland emphasized the importance of balancing the needs of both landlords and tenants, calling for secure tenures and good maintenance standards.

During the question and answer session, panel attendees Leonie from Swansea Co-Housing, and Marcus from XR Cymru, expressed their views on the urgency of addressing housing challenges in Wales. Leonie highlighted the barriers faced by young people trying to enter the property market and the loneliness epidemic among the aging population. Marcus emphasised the need for empowering communities and educating tenants to create a fairer housing landscape and the climate challenges of the current housing stock. 

Following this, Claire White, Community Led Housing Enabler at Cwmpas, discussed the potential of community-led housing models, such as community land trusts and co-operative housing, to address the affordable housing crisis and combat the impact of second homes and holiday lets.

Dai James, Rural Housing Enabler, shed light on the dearth of rural housing statistics and the challenges faced by rural areas, where lack of affordable housing and high land values prevent locals from buying homes. He called for changes in land ownership and values, suggesting that communities acquire land as ‘commons’ to provide affordable housing. Dai stressed the need to shift away from the current situation where developers dictate prices, emphasising that achieving 60% affordable housing should be feasible.

And finally, Ruth Power, CEO of Shelter Cymru, shared insights from their work helping thousands of households each year, highlighting the demand and supply challenges in the housing market. She emphasised the need for homes that people can genuinely afford, which often differs from what is considered “affordable housing.” Ruth addressed the scarcity of available properties for rent and the significant waiting lists for social housing, stressing the importance of increasing the social housing supply to provide stability and support for those in need.

The panel discussion provided valuable insights into the housing challenges faced by Wales and the potential solutions within a Wellbeing Economy framework. The panelists’ diverse perspectives, including the input from Claire White representing Cwmpas, emphasised the need for sustainable, affordable, and community-driven housing models. By adopting innovative construction methods, empowering communities, and prioritising long-term investments over short term gain, Wales can work towards a housing system that ensures access to adequate and affordable homes, fostering thriving communities and improved wellbeing for all.


Ruth Power, CEO of Shelter Cymru

Ruth started out in local authority and housing association homelessness services in Cardiff and London, and later set up and managed accommodation-based services, such as an independent women’s refuge; and the first mother and baby supported home for teenagers, for a black-led housing association. She was London Regional Director for Advice UK for 5 yrs and worked for 15yrs+ in criminal justice. Ruth joined Shelter Cymru as CEO during the pandemic. She chairs Homes for All Cymru and is a member of the Ending Homelessness National Advisory Board, established by the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change. Ruth will give Shelter Cymru’s perspective on the current housing emergency and how we can think differently about people and homes.

Linda Whitaker, CEO of Tai Tarian

Linda has been CEO at Tai Tarian since it was set up in 2011 following the transfer of 9000+ properties from Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council. The organisation, one of the largest housing providers in Wales, has been innovative from the start and was the first to pledge, back in October 2019, that it would reach Carbon neutrality by 2030. Linda’s career started in the finance sector but moved into housing over 30 years ago, her last post before being appointed as CEO was as Director of Housing within the Welsh Government.

Rowland Jones, MD of RJ Chartered Surveyors

Rowland Jones is a Chartered Surveyor and has been active in the property sector in South and West Wales for over 40 years. The impact of property within the economy of the area has always been an area of considerable interest and how property can improve and sustain SME’s operating within the region. In recent years he has been actively trying to develop ways in which the private sector can play a meaningful and sustainable role in the delivery of affordable housing to rent for the long term.

Claire White, Community Led Housing Enabler, Cwmpas

Claire White is a community-led housing enabler for the Communities Creating Homes programme at Cwmpas, a development agency working for positive change that puts people and planet first. Claire supports communities to explore how they can do housing differently and works with them to deliver their own genuinely affordable, low-carbon homes. She is also a trustee of the Community Land Trust network which has a mission to see a community land trust in every community that wants one. The network is aiming to bring community ownership of affordable housing and land into the mainstream of public policy and market practice.

David James, Rural Housing Enabler, Monmouthshire

Dai is an independent consultant working in South East Wales, whose objective is to help deliver affordable housing for local people in rural areas of Monmouthshire. His post is hosted by Monmouthshire Housing Association, and funded by Welsh Government, Monmouthshire County Council, MHA, Melin Homes, and Seren. Dai is also working independently with local community councils to facilitate the development of affordable homes for local people.