The waiting list for council housing in Cardiff has grown to nearly 10,000 people.
This has led to many people having been on the waiting list for as long as a five years, while hundreds of others are unable to be granted housing despite attempting to escape situations that may contain instances of domestic abuse and antisocial behaviour.
In a report by Cardiff Council on amendments to their Housing Allocation Scheme, it was noted that, as of September 2015, “there are currently 9,572 people registered on the Waiting List of which 5,416 have a significant housing need”.
The report also confirmed Cardiff’s growing homelessness problem, stating that: “of these [9,572], 221 were homeless households”.
The Council have planned to tackle this by introducing a new way of categorizing those in need of housing, creating a new ‘band’ which would separate “urgent full/final duty homeless” from “all other homeless cases including those in hostels, supported housing and temporary accommodation”.
Overcrowding was another one of the main issues raised by the report, which said: “of the 3,289 households are living in unsatisfactory housing conditions 2,765 households (29 per cent of the Waiting List) are overcrowded”.
The overcrowding problem in Cardiff is exacerbated by the city’s shortage on houses of over five bedrooms, which was confirmed by the Council’s report: “the current social housing stock in the city cannot generally accommodate households requiring over four bedrooms; Cardiff has only 153 properties of five bedrooms and above and they are rarely available for re-let”.
The demand for homes in the Cardiff region has been high for years due to the popularity of the area as a place to live, however the recent introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ was cited by the report as one of the reasons that the issue has worsened recently.
It stated: “Records show that 2,681 social housing tenants of working age in receipt of Housing Benefit are still affected by the ‘bedroom tax’”.
The ‘bedroom tax’ means that anyone who lives in a council house, and is deemed to have a ‘spare room’, will receive less in housing benefit, therefore every bedroom must be occupied by a member of the household to avoid this penalty.
This means that it is harder for families to find homes because they must find a house with exactly the right number of bedrooms, so as to avoid the ‘bedroom tax’.
The fact that people are being affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ means that there are also many houses that are under occupied, which the report says is “not making the best use of social housing stock”.
Another suggested reason for the shortage of housing is that there are a proportion of retired people who are living on their own or with their partner in large houses; for example, a family home that the parents continued to live in after their children left home.
This is also known as ‘under occupancy’, and can make it more difficult for young families to find homes of a suitable size.
In light of the overcrowding problem in the Cardiff area the council have planned to build more homes, and currently give priority to those most in need of housing, with “97% of lets now going to those in housing need”.
The Council will also make amendments to their ‘local connection’ policy, which currently states that if someone has lived in Cardiff “for six of the last 12 months or three out of the last five years”, they will be granted priority over housing ahead of those who have not.
The new legislation will mean that new housing applicants will have had to live in Cardiff for two years before they are given priority.
Other changes proposed by the Council include prioritising veterans who are leaving the Armed Forces and have an “urgent housing need”.