JULIE James, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, has confirmed up to £50m to support projects across Wales, providing people with safe and secure homes to make sure they do not fall into homelessness and no-one is forced back onto the streets.
The Welsh Government has reiterated their commitment to tackling homelessness, rehousing everyone who has been provided with emergency shelter during the coronavirus pandemic and building on the initial £10m in funding announced in March by making additional £40m available for local authorities.
The initial phase of the homelessness response focused on ensuring everyone had accommodation where they could self-isolate if necessary and could follow public health advice on basic hygiene, hand washing and social distancing. Phase 2 focuses on a longer-term approach to transform services, innovate and build accommodation, with the ambition of ensuring everyone who was provided with emergency accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic has a clear route to permanent housing and providing high-quality accommodation for those who are threatened with homelessness in the future.
The Welsh Government has also provided a package of support to make sure as many people as possible facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic remain in their private rented homes, sustaining tenancies and avoiding eviction due to rent arrears. Last week a temporary increase in the notice period for eviction was announced, providing greater protection from homelessness for tenants in private rented and housing association accommodation.
In July, an extra £1.4m was announced to help tenants boost their household income and manage problem debt, with the help of a dedicated early alert scheme provided by Citizens Advice Cymru. In addition, the new Tenant Saver Loan Scheme will provide an affordable way to cover rent arrears, or future months’ rent, reducing the risk of eviction and homelessness. These loans will be paid directly to landlords and are available for tenants who were not in significant rent arrears prior to March 1st this year.
During a visit to Newport Mind, which will receive funding from phase 2 of the homelessness response to add a new floor to their offices with seven self-contained flats, the Minister for Housing and Local Government said:
“The coronavirus has shone a light on housing in a way that few of us have seen before and reminded us all of the fundamental importance of good-quality affordable housing, a safe and secure home and strong and cohesive communities where people want to live and work. The best way we can tackle homelessness is by preventing it in the first place.
I have been clear that I do not wish to see anyone forced to return to the streets. We have a unique opportunity to change the services and change lives for the better – and make homelessness rare, brief and unrepeated. We want to build on the success we have seen so far and change Wales’ approach to homelessness in the long term.
To that end, I have increased the overall homelessness phase 2 funding to up to £50m, which clearly demonstrates the level of commitment we have to ensure we can make a truly significant and transformational step-change towards achieving our goal of ending homelessness in Wales.
Local Authorities, working in partnership with the third sector and other organisations have come forward with some highly ambitious, bold and innovative projects that not only draw on energy-efficient, modern methods of construction but also join-up with other services, such as substance misuse, mental health, primary care and community safety. This reflects the fact that homelessness isn’t just a housing issue; it’s a public services issue and it’s about having access to those services where and when people need them. We’re not tinkering around the edges – this is about bold, long-lasting solutions.”
Councillor Jane Mudd, Leader of Newport City Council, said:
“The council was working with established organisations to help as many people off the streets and into accommodation before the pandemic began but this priority became imperative during the lockdown.
“This was not without its challenges for a number of reasons but it would not have been possible without the hard work and innovation of our housing team, our partners and the financial support given by the Welsh Government.
“I share the Minister’s ambition to end homelessness in Wales and I’m delighted we have been able to work with Newport Mind on this fantastic new housing scheme as part of the homelessness phase 2 funding. We know that eradicating rough sleeping and homelessness completely will not be easy but this is an important next step to transforming the lives of those who do not have a roof over their heads.”