RISING rents in the private sector is one of the reasons Swansea doesn’t have enough homes and flats to accommodate people on a council waiting list, a report has said.
Rents are outpacing the local housing allowance – the method used to calculate the maximum amount someone renting from a private landlord can claim in housing benefit – making it harder for tenants who rely on this state support to cover housing costs.
A new four-year housing support strategy, which was due to be discussed by cabinet on September 15, said having a reasonable supply of quality, affordable accommodation was crucial to prevent homelessness and achieve a Welsh Government “rapid rehousing” model.
“Current supply levels are a significant barrier to achieving this,” said the report.
Other factors contributing to this pressure include not enough social housing to meet demand – particularly one-bedroom flats.
The report said there were 4,639 people waiting for accommodation in Swansea as of last September. A quarter were threatened with homelessness or homeless, nearly a third were council tenants who wanted to move to a different property or area, with the remainder applicants with other less pressing housing needs.
It is a complex job for all local authorities to find suitable housing for those in need – and Swansea Council, said the report, helped 2,159 people to stay in their home during a six-month period.
The housing landscape changed rapidly at the start of the Covid pandemic when the Welsh Government instructed councils to bring homeless people in off the streets and find accommodation for people in need. That led to a significant increase in the use of bed and breakfast accommodation.
The report said the pandemic led to an increase in mental health issues more widely, plus a rise substance misuse, domestic abuse and relationship breakdown, which added to the housing challenge. Soaring energy prices will leave many people in a financially precarious position.
The Welsh Government now expects to see detailed and costed plans from councils setting out how they will ensure that people spend the minimum time necessary in temporary accommodation, or preferably avoid it all together, by moving straight into permanent homes.
The report added that Swansea was one of four “dispersal areas” for asylum seekers and refugees in Wales, and that the Home Office wanted these areas to take more of these two groups.
There are policies and targets in place in Swansea which should alleviate some of the pressure. The Labour-run authority aims to to build 1,000 council houses between 2021-2031, while four registered social landlords are expected to contribute 4,000 new homes in that period. The report added that a new social housing lettings schemes in the city is proposed.
The council has used Welsh Government funding to create 24 temporary accommodation units for single people at Ty Tom Jones, Alexandra Road, and four housing pods at the former Bryn House adult education centre, off Walter Road.
A foreword to the new four-year strategy by cabinet members Cllr Andrea Lewis and Cllr Louise Gibbard paid tribute to charities and accommodation providers, among others, for their efforts.
They added: “The extent and complexity of the issues that face the council and its partners over the next four years should not be under-estimated.”
The strategy was expected to be approved on Thursday but the cabinet meeting won’t take place because of the national period of mourning following the death of the Queen on September 8.