by Rory Sheehan
THE impact of the invasion in Ukraine and turmoil in the UK economy is putting increased pressure on Wrexham Council’s capacity to meet housing needs.
According to figures revealed during this month’s meeting of Wrexham Council’s Executive Board, there are currently 4,006 people on general waiting list for local authority housing.
In addition there are 215 households in temporary accommodation, and 720 people presenting as homeless.
The council is also aware that 156 Section 21 notices have been served (landlords of private properties intending to evict tenants) with more than half of these notices being due to the landlords’ intention to sell the property.
Leader of Wrexham Council, Esclusham Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind) asked officers to make the figures public during the meeting “so we all know what we are facing here in Wrexham”.
It followed a question from Grosvenor Cllr Marc Jones (Plaid) during an update on the council’s housing support programme strategy.
Cllr Jones touched on how people without homes were able to stay in accommodation at Wrexham Glyndwr University during the pandemic, and that it proved support is there.
But he expressed concern that the wider housing strategy is not meeting need, that there has been a rise in people being placed into temporary accommodation (such as hotels and bed and breakfasts) and the additional cost of that to the council.
He suggested empty properties could be ‘bought back’ and converted in lieu of building new homes while the phosphates issue is ongoing.
The deputy leader of the council and new lead member for Housing, Pant and Johnstown Cllr David A Bithell (Ind), said a number of factors were combining to put pressure on the service.
During a media briefing last week he detailed how a Wales-wide environmental issue regarding river phosphates was holding up development of more council housing.
Speaking at Executive Board, he added that the situation in Ukraine is also a factor.
He said: “We are in the eye of the storm with homelessness, and housing waiting lists.
“We can’t meet the growing demand at the moment for a number of factors.
“There is the phosphates issue, we’ve got the Ukrainian issue but I have to say we’re doing a really good job working with the Welsh Government in supporting the Ukrainian refugees in Wrexham.
“I’ve been really enthused by the passion from our officers in supporting them during the really challenging time.”
Cllr Bithell added:
“With Ukraine, the legislation is that we have to support the Ukrainian refugees to move into permanent accommodation after three months. That’s really, really difficult.
“The crisis in Ukraine at the moment is not moving away, it seems to be escalating when you listen to the news so nobody knows really what’s going to happen to the housing and homeless situation as we approach the winter.
“But what we are doing is meeting with Ministers fortnightly to discuss a number of issues and on the agenda is the cost of living crisis, Ukraine, the housing and social care issues, and the winter pressures that we’re dealing with as we approach the winter months.”
Cllr Bithell gave praise to the council’s housing department for doing a “fantastic job” in dealing with a difficult situation.