Then and now

Luke Merlini takes a look at United Welsh’s first ever annual report, and reflects on the changes that a quarter of a century has brought….

AR 1989-page-001

When we first formed way back in 1989 we had a total of 1800 homes, spread all across South Wales. In fact, our properties stretched all the way from Swansea to Magor, with most of them concentrated in the Rhymney Valley and Blaenau Gwent.

From the very beginning we have provided homes for the elderly, those with support needs and the wider public – but on a much smaller scale to the work we do today. We had sheltered housing schemes in Hengoed, Aberbargoed and Cardiff, while in Cwmbran we offered accommodation both to the elderly and those with learning difficulties.

As soon as we started operating as an independent housing association, we were inundated with requests from people looking for a home. We built 30 new homes in 1989 and ‘rehabilitated’ – the annual report’s word, not mine – a further 54 houses that were in a poor state when we took them on. In our first year we let 336 homes, with various transfers and exchanges making up the bulk of those. The remaining 100 were from our waiting list. In our annual report of 1989 we noted that we had 630 people on our housing waiting list, and commented that “we cannot possibly help everyone who applies to us”.


Fast forward 25 years and things have changed significantly. Although we have many more homes than before – nearly 5,000 of them – we are no longer spread right across South Wales, and are much more focussed on the South East. We’ve sold our properties in Swansea, Magor and Cwmbran and the majority of our homes are now in Cardiff, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent. Interestingly, thanks to political restructuring we actually cover more than twice the number of local authority areas than we used to.

We now have nearly 800 homes for the over-55’s through our Living+ brand, with accommodation spread all throughout our areas. We provide more than 800 homes for people with support needs, too – which makes us the biggest provider in Wales. We work with organisations like the Salvation Army, The Wallich and Gofal to give the very best care we can.

We built 127 new homes in 2013/14, which is more than most other housing associations in Wales – but it’s clear we all need to build more. Last year we let more than 500 homes… but unfortunately there is still no way we can help everyone who applies to us. Our waiting list for Caerphilly alone has nearly 3,000 names on it – and that’s before you factor in the common waiting lists for Cardiff, Blaenau Gwent and the rest.

Annual Report cover

It’s interesting to see that although the times – and hairstyles! – have changed, our ethos has been a constant throughout. Yes, we work on a much bigger scale than before, but our values haven’t changed. We are here to support the people and communities of South Wales.

And we always will be.


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2 responses to “Then and now”

  1. James William Rides says :

    United Welsh a truly outstanding Housing Association…..posted by James Tenant Adivsory Panel member

  2. Gayna Jones says :

    I remember that annual report I worked at UWHA then

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