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‘We are in a housing emergency’: Torfaen councillor shares shocking housing data

The demand for temporary accommodation in Torfaen is so great that tonight there are 37 families who do not know where they will be living when they are evicted.

The shocking information was shared by councillor David Daniels, executive member for adult services and housing, who told councillors that the “statistic keeps him awake at night”. At this week’s full council meeting, Cllr Colette Thomas, Two Locks Ward, asked him:

Could the Executive Member for Adult Services and Housing provide an update on the current housing and homelessness situation in Torfaen please?

Councillor Daniels, said: “I’ve made repeated reference to the challenge in housing in Torfaen and across the country and similar to the crisis in domiciliary care, my instinct is to be honest about the scale of the challenge we are facing

“I think we need to be clear, that we are in a housing emergency and I don’t think we are doing anyone any favours pretending otherwise. Things are not fine.”

25% increase in homeless applications

He said: “So on the housing register, we currently have 3,022. This number has grown by 18% over the course of the pandemic and continues to grow. I remember several years ago when that figure was around 2,400, 2,300 so the numbers we are dealing with on the housing register are considerable.”

  • 754 people presented themselves as homeless between January 2022 and October 2022.
  • This is a 25% rise on the same period for 2021 (601)

Section 21 no-fault evictions

Landlords can use this to evict tenants (who have the most common tenancy- an assured shorthold tenancy) in just two months without any reason. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act is due to come into force on 1 December 2022 and will extend this notice period to six months.

Cllr Daniels revealed there had been a 225% increase in no-fault evictions over the same ten-month period. From January 2022 to October 2022, 110 tenants were given the notice, compared to 33 in the same period in 2021.

Temporary Accommodation

There are 95 households currently in temporary accommodation. A family will typically be there for around six to nine months, and individuals move on after 12 months. Cllr Daniels said this was due to the “lack of housing availability”.

He said: “It’s important to highlight this is having a significant impact on our ability to provide accommodation” as the long waits had led to a “considerable waiting list”.

Thirty-seven families are waiting to be placed in temporary accommodation.

“That particular statistic keeps me awake at night. That includes families with children who do not know where they are going and are currently waiting in properties that they have been served an eviction notice from.”

He said the council stopped using “out-of-county accommodation” several years ago but “right now the simple fact of the matter is that we have no choice but to use any and every option open to us as this situation is incredibly dire.”

‘Staff are trying their best’

“Our teams are doing the very best to support people, taking into account their needs and wishes as much as possible, but their ability to do so is significantly constrained by the availability of properties. and a lack of movement in the system.”

He asked councillors to remember when they are supporting residents, that the “staff are trying their very best with an incredibly challenging system”.

150 bids per house

  • There is an average of 150 bids from people for each house that appears on the Torfaen Homeseeker website.
  • One home had 400 bids. Cllr Daniels said: “I don’t know what to say about that stat. It’s staggering.”

He said the system had “ground to a halt due to a lack of affordable accommodation in both private and social housing for families and individuals to move on.”

Average house prices

The average price of a house in Torfaen is £201,908

Cllr Daniels said the recent mini-budget had an impact with some residents “paying hundreds more a month” and “almost overnight, people looking to buy a home would have been priced out of doing so so due to unaffordable mortgage rates and those with mortgages will potentially have found themselves unable to keep up with repayments. The mini-budget has had a two-pronged attack on those hoping to own their own home.”

Private sector rent

He said the private sector market in Torfaen is “underdeveloped” which leads to “greater competition for each property” and this results in higher rents.

Some private landlords have approached Cllr Daniels with concerns about the “implications” of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act. He said he “completely agrees with the aims of the Act” but “the prospect of losing capacity in the private rented sector right now makes me incredibly nervous.”

He has signed a joint letter to the Welsh Government’s housing minister with housing cabinet councillors from across Wales asking for the Act to be delayed “until the housing situation in Wales improves”.

Tenants in arrears for the first time

Cllr Daniels said that Bron Afon, the area’s largest social landlord, was seeing an increase in the number of tenants in arrears, many of them for the first time.

“Let’s say in no uncertain terms that you change the system for allocating homes but you can’t change those cold, hard numbers I read out earlier. Until we can materially change the number of people waiting on our list and the number of affordable properties available to them the outcome will always be the same.”

He said was using all platforms to “relentlessly press the Welsh Government for support in finding a way out of this housing emergency. The Welsh Government had given the council more money in the form of the social housing grant but Cllr Daniels said construction costs had increased by “25%”.

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‘We are in a housing emergency’: Torfaen councillor shares shocking housing data

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