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New HMO could help council ease emergency housing pressures in Caerphilly

48 High Street, Pengam, pictured in June 2021 (Pic: Google)

CAERPHILLY County Borough Council will turn to a HMO to ease the pressure on temporary accommodation waiting lists for people who are facing homelessness.

It is hoped the property in Pengam will be a cheaper alternative to emergency placements at bed and breakfast hotels.

Figures seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service show the council spent £2 million on temporary accommodation services over the past two years.

An independent councillor has warned those costs are “having a huge impact on council coffers”.

The plans for a new HMO in Pengam highlight one possible solution to the borough’s emergency housing pressures.

Earlier in May, the council’s planning committee granted permission for the house, in High Street, to be converted into a HMO (house in multiple occupation) for up to four people – despite opposition from some neighbours and a local councillor.

The local authority has defended the move, saying it has a “statutory duty” to accommodate people who find themselves homeless.

“The current national housing crisis has led to increased demand for housing support and has resulted in us using establishments in a variety of locations in the Caerphilly borough to provide temporary accommodation,” a council spokesman said.

The Pengam HMO will be managed by a private landlord “with support provided for those placed at the property”.

The council said it will “work with” the managing company, and its own “temporary accommodation coordinators” will make weekly visits to the HMO.

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Some members of the planning committee were sympathetic to neighbours’ concerns about parking and privacy, and ward councillor Teresa Heron said she feared the property “could be treated as a hostel”.

The agent for the application has sought to reassure locals, telling the committee he wanted a “good relationship” with them and would take steps to prevent any antisocial behaviour at the HMO.

The council spokesman confirmed neighbours would receive the contact details of the property’s owner, and of the authority’s emergency accommodation team, “should there be any queries or concerns”.

The comments during and after the meeting encapsulate the competing interests of local authorities desperate to deal with emergency accommodation waiting lists, and those of residents afraid the fabric of their neighbourhoods could change dramatically.

Nigel Dix, an independent councillor from Blackwood, has previously called for the council to turn more empty homes into social housing, given the £2m outlay on emergency accommodation since 2022.

“The increase in cost is largely due to the length of time people are placed in temporary accommodation rather than the increase in placements,” Cllr Dix said. “The lack of properties that are available to move people into is not only costing money, I know of families that have been in temporary accommodation for months, which is having a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing.”

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