Freedom of Information request reveals big increase in council house waiting lists
Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter
Nearly 6,000 people in Caerphilly County Borough have been waiting more than a year for a council home.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Plaid Cymru has revealed a 33% increase in the number of families and individuals on the waitlist for council houses over the past three years.
Residents waiting for council houses are categorised into three bands – band A being the highest priority band, then band B and band C. Those viewed as high priority – meaning they are homeless or are likely to be soon – have an average wait of 460 days – well over a year.
Plaid Cymru councillor Greg Ead, who represents the Penyrheol ward, has said the long wait for residents is “frankly not good enough”.
Cllr Ead, who is a member of the council’s housing and regeneration scrutiny committee, said: “As a new councillor I find the number of applicants on each of the waiting lists to be truly shocking. I appreciate the pandemic had an impact on availability of accommodation but these numbers are very disturbing.
“As a ward councillor, I spent more than a month trying to help a resident with a range of mental health and physical disabilities to be rehoused. He had been on the highest priority list since January 2021 – over 18 months. Thankfully, he has now been rehoused.”
Currently there are 27 council properties empty and waiting for new tenants, with two-thirds of them one-bed homes.
The FOI also revealed the areas where the demand for council properties is highest are Caerphilly town, Bedwas, Blackwood, Cefn Fforest, Ystrad Mynach and Oakdale.
Cllr Shayne Cook, cabinet member for housing, said the council has seen an increase in demand for social housing as a direct impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the current cost of living crisis.
The Labour councillor for the Morgan Jones ward added: “This situation is not unique to Caerphilly, as the country currently faces a national housing crisis. There are a wide range of factors affecting waiting times for social housing in the county borough and meeting housing need is a key priority for the council.
“The common housing register for the county borough operates on a needs based system; where those most in need are placed in the highest band.
“The current figure of applicants on the register includes considerable numbers of homeless people who are currently in temporary accommodation, so are at greatest need and therefore affects waiting times for those in lower bands.
“There are also a number of people awaiting accommodation who require specific property types or sizes, such as those with mobility issues.
“We also have a shortage of single persons’ accommodation in the county borough. In addition, we have geographical areas within the borough that are higher demand than others; meaning the waiting time is longer for those who restrict their options to certain areas or property types.”
Cllr Cook pointed to the council’s house building programme, which has recently seen new homes built to Passivhaus standard – meaning they have ‘very high’ levels of insulation, ‘airtight’ building fabric and and a mechanical heat ventilation system, as well as lower carbon emissions.
He added: “We also continue to work extremely closely with our housing association partners to identify and develop new social housing on sites throughout the county borough; with a formal Memorandum of Understanding signed by all parties to solidify our joint commitment to achieving this aim.”
Cllr Ead said: “I accept this is not just an issue for Caerphilly but is an issue for councils across Wales and the wider UK. I find it disgraceful that the UK Government has done very little to ensure that enough social housing is built or available in line with the rising UK population.
“It is also important that Caerphilly housing officials are better in communicating with applicants waiting on the register and are open and transparent so applicants are well aware of likely waiting times for accommodation.”
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