Cardiff is facing an emergency housing situation, with exceptional pressures and unabating demand for homelessness services.
Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Cllr Lynda Thorne, told a recent meeting of Full Council that the city was experiencing an ‘incredibly challenging’ time, but the Welsh capital was not alone with other major cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh also declaring a housing emergency.
“Cardiff is at the eye of the storm of this issue in Wales,” Cllr Thorne said. “It’s the most challenging time for housing in decades.
“We’re doing everything in our power to find a solution and a range of actions are being proposed to relieve these pressures.”
Due to a shortage of affordable housing and home ownership being out of reach for many people, unprecedented numbers of families and individuals are experiencing homelessness in the city and require help from the Council.
The Council has already taken steps to increase the availability and quality of temporary accommodation in the city in recent years, so there are now around 1,700 temporary accommodation units for families, individuals and young people. Two additional family homeless centres have been opened this year alone.
Despite this good supply of temporary accommodation, provision is full and emerging pressures are expected to place even more strain on services in the coming weeks and months.
Cllr Thorne continued: “There’s no other way to describe the situation we are in other than an emergency. Our accommodation is full and services are flat out supporting people who have no home of their own.
“We’ve been under pressure for many months now and have taken steps like strengthening homeless prevention services and increasing resources for move on from temporary accommodation but despite increasing the percentage of households prevented from becoming homeless, each month we still have around 28 more families entering temporary accommodation than are exiting to permanent homes.
“Demand for affordable housing in Cardiff far exceeds supply. The high cost of private rented accommodation in the city has made it unaffordable for lots of people while home ownership is also out of reach for many.
“In addition to our good supply of temporary accommodation, we are using four hotels to cope with the high numbers of families needing support, and another hotel for single people has opened very recently, but even these measures are not enough to deal with the demand.”
A report outlining these severe housing pressures and a number of proposals to help alleviate the emergency situation will be considered by Cabinet at its next meeting on Thursday December 14.
Cllr Thorne said: “We know pressures will worsen before things get better so we’ve developed proposals to help reduce demand as much as we can. This includes changes to how we currently support people needing homelessness services as well as plans to increase the amount of affordable accommodation we have available.”
The proposals Cabinet will consider include, where appropriate, making homeless households without support needs offers of private rented accommodation outside of Cardiff where it is more affordable, and for social housing, making offers anywhere in the city to help improve move on from temporary accommodation.
Under the proposals, no housing duty would be accepted for applicants where there is clear evidence that they have made themselves intentionally homelessness. Protection would be in place for under-21s, care leavers and families / pregnant women, and those with complex needs.
Cllr Thorne said: “We are finding evidence that some individuals are seeking to enter homeless services as a short cut to social housing. This delays the move on for other households who are genuinely homeless or who are on the general waiting list with high levels of housing need. While this is only true of a minority of cases, it is important that we take action to address this unfairness.”
The report includes ambitious plans to accelerate the delivery of more affordable homes, building on the progress made so far to tackle housing demand via the Council’s ambitious development programme.
This month, the number of new council homes delivered as part of the programme will surpass the 1,000 mark and the overall programme has the capacity to create more than 4,000 new homes in the longer term.
To boost the supply of affordable accommodation more quickly, the Council plans to buy a large new-build, commercial property in the city centre that is suitable for converting into residential accommodation and would deliver more than 84 family homes, with the opportunity to deliver 150 more flats on adjacent land.
In addition it is proposed to extend the successful use of innovative modular homes on meanwhile-use sites. The former Gasworks Site in Grangetown is already due to deliver 155 good quality demountable modular homes by April 2024. The proposal will see a further 350 new modular homes delivered on four other sites across the city.
To read the full report, which will also be considered by Community & Adult Services Scrutiny Committee at is meeting in County Hall on December 11, at 4:30pm.