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Powys County Council discusses to tackle sharp increase in homelessness

MORE homes for single people need to be built in Powys to address a massive increase in the waiting list for housing as well as rocketing homelessness figures.

At a meeting of the Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee on Monday, January 30 councillors looking at how the draft budget proposal for 2023/2024 will affect a number of council departments including the housing department.

Housing is funded differently to other council departments and its budget, known as the Housing Revenue Account (HRA~) comes from a mixture of fees and rents paid to the authority as well as grant funding from the Welsh Government.

In January the cabinet agreed that from April, housing rents in Powys will go up by 5.36 per cent which equates to a £5.16 weekly increase other fees including garages will also rise.

This will bring in around £1.5million extra to the HRA – taking it up just over £29 million.

From this pot the council has to maintain and invest in its housing stock of 5,500 homes as well as look to fund building more homes.

Deputy council leader and portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Matthew Dorrance said: “I think this is a good position for housing in this council budget, because the cabinet recognised significant challenges that we’ve got around increasing homelessness levels.

“When we look at the data, I think we’ve seen a doubling in our homelessness, presentations with a budget that’s remained the same.”

Cllr Matthew Dorrance

Head of housing, Andy Thompson explained that in 2017/2018 there had been 383 homeless presentations to the council.

In 2022 this had had gone up to 1,078.

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In 2019 there had been 389 people in temporary accommodation throughout the year.

By 2022 this had gone up 1,271.

The figures for the waiting list for housing in Powys show that in 2017/2018 it was 1,937 households.

The figure is now up to 4,017.

Mr Thompson said: “We’re not far off 10 per cent of households in Powys registering for affordable housing.”

Mr Thompson explained that half of the households were single people and that only six per cent of “all homes” in Powys are suitable for them.

Committee chairman, Cllr Angela Davies said: “I guess a lot of the housing stock in Powys would be family homes, three and four bedroom properties.

“How do you decide what’s appropriate.”

Cllr Angela Davies

Mr Thompson said that people were basing their decision on affordability which includes taking into consideration the spare room subsidy commonly known as bedroom tax.

Mr Thompson said: “We’re quite happy for people to have a slightly larger home, and we do an affordability check.

“Because their incomes are low a lot of people reliant upon social security don’t want to take that risk of having their housing element cut by 25 per cent.

“People are careful they don’t want to run into rent arrears.”

Cllr Davies said: “Although the picture is not rosy it’s positive that we’ve identified the need and are taking steps to address it.”

Later this year the housing department will put forward a business plan to cabinet which outlines their intention to invest £19.8 million in building schemes to increase housing stock in the county.