Rhiannon James, local democracy journalist
Almost 6,000 people in the county borough of Caerphilly have been waiting for more than a year for social housing.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Plaid Cymru revealed a 33 per cent increase in the number of families and individuals on the council homes waiting list over the past three years.
Residents awaiting social housing are categorized into three groups – Group A being the highest priority group, then Group B and Group C. Those who are considered 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 councilor Greg Ead, who represents the Penyrheol ward, said the long wait for residents was “frankly not good enough”.
Cllr Ead, who is a member of the council’s Housing and Regeneration Review Committee, said: ‘As a new councilor I find the number of applicants on each of the waiting lists really shocking. I appreciate that the pandemic has impacted housing availability, but these numbers are very concerning.
“As ward councillor, I spent over a month trying to help a resident with various mental and physical disabilities get relocated. He had been on the highest priority list since January 2021 – more 18 months. Fortunately, he has now been relocated.
Currently, 27 municipal properties are empty and awaiting new tenants, two-thirds of which are one-bed houses.
The FOI also revealed that the areas with the highest demand for council properties are Caerphilly City, 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.
Labor ward councilor Morgan Jones added: ‘This is not unique to Caerphilly as the country is currently facing a national housing crisis. There are a wide range of factors affecting wait times for social housing in the county borough and addressing housing need is a key priority for the council.
“The County Borough’s Common Housing Registry operates on a needs-based system; where those most in need are placed in the highest bracket.
“The current number of applicants on the register includes a considerable number of homeless people who are currently in temporary accommodation, who therefore need it most and therefore affect waiting times for those in the lower brackets. .
“There are also a number of people waiting for accommodation who need specific types or sizes of properties, such as those with mobility issues.
“We also have a shortage of housing for single people in the departmental district. Additionally, we have geographic areas within the borough that are in higher demand than others; which means the wait time is longer for those who limit their options to certain areas or property types.
Cllr Cook highlighted the council’s home building programme, which has recently seen new homes built to the Passivhaus standard – meaning they have ‘very high’ levels of insulation, ‘waterproof’ building fabric air’ and a mechanical heat ventilation system, as well as low carbon emissions.
He added: “We also continue to work closely with our housing association partners to identify and develop new social housing at sites across the county borough; with a formal Memorandum of Understanding signed by all parties to solidify our shared commitment to achieving this goal.
Cllr Ead said: “I accept that this is not just a problem for Caerphilly, but it is a problem for councils in Wales and the wider UK. I find it shameful that the UK government has done so little to ensure that enough social housing is built or available for the increase in the UK population.
“It is also important that Caerphilly housing officials communicate better with applicants waiting on the register and are open and transparent so that applicants are well aware of likely waiting times for accommodation.”
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