A leading homelessness charity has said there’s ‘no silver bullet’ to solve the skyrocketing homelessness in Powys.

Cymorth Cymru says it’s mainly down to the soaring cost of living.

1,078 people presented as homeless in 2022 – an increase of 70% since 2019. 

The Director of Cymorth Cymru, Katie Dalton, says there’ll be no solution overnight as many of the problems have been years in the making:

“If we could turn back time and build more social homes over the past four decades that would have prevented a lot of homelessness that we’re seeing now, but that’s not something we can do overnight.

“It requires a few different things to happen because there isn’t a silver bullet.

“The Welsh government has got a commitment to 20,000 social homes during this Senedd term. 

“It is important that’s delivered, and local authorities are supported, and social landlords are supported to deliver those.

“So many people would be able to get out of temporary accommodation and into a settled home.”

Ms Dalton says she did initially expect the number of homeless people in the area to decrease as they were made a priority over the pandemic and moved into temporary accommodation. 

“Actually, what we’ve seen from the past three years is from across Wales there has been between 1,000 and 1,500 people presenting to homelessness apartments and being placed in temporary accommodation across the whole of Wales.

“We’ve got a huge number of people on social housing waiting lists who feel like they’ve got no hope of getting anywhere soon.”

It comes as in Powys, the number of people housed in temporary accommodation, some for years, has gone from 389 in 2019 to 1271 in 2022 – an increase of 227% - more than triple.

Homelessness in Powys
(Datawrapper / Source: Powys County Council)

The head of Cymorth Cymru also highlighted the volatile housing market: “In addition to that the private rented sector has become increasingly expensive and is probably out of reach for many people and particularly those that are on the lowest incomes.

“We’ve seen rents getting really high and there’s huge competition in that market, and people who aren’t able to access social homes are looking to the private rented sector. 

“For people on who rely on housing benefits, that is capped at a rate called the local housing allowance rate and that’s supposed to cover the bottom 30 percent of rent in a local area and research by the Bevan Foundation has shown that most private rented homes are not available within that cap.

“Those things added with the cost-of-living crisis, the increase cost of rent, utilities, food etc means more people are being pushed closer to homelessness.

“Action from the UK government to increase the housing benefit rate to enable people to rent in the private rented sector is something that could be implemented straight away and would dramatically change things in terms of homelessness.

“It feels that there needs to be more investment in support services from the Welsh government to help sustain their home and avoid homelessness in the future.”

In response to Katie Dalton’s comments, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have set an ambitious long-term goal of ending all forms of homelessness, by making it rare, brief and unrepeated.

“We are investing over £210m in homelessness to provide support at the earliest opportunity, focusing on prevention and ensuring people find suitable homes.

“Social housing remains a key priority as reflected in our commitment to deliver 20,000 low-carbon homes for rent in the social sector this government term.”

The Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for a Fairer Powys, Matthew Dorrance, says they’re experiencing a housing emergency.

“The demand for social housing and the increase in homelessness are the main reasons why the county is experiencing a housing emergency.

“One of the priorities of the council is to tackle the housing emergency in the county and that can only be achieved by building high-quality, energy efficient, affordable homes. 

“We are committed to tackling the housing emergency… however, there are a number of challenges that we face. Interest rates are rocketing and house prices in Powys are six times higher than annual salaries, making mortgages increasingly unaffordable for too many people.

“The right to buy and ban on council houses that was in place for decades has depleted our housing stock. Privately rented accommodation is in high demand, can be expensive and does not offer people the same security of tenure as does social housing or owner occupation.

“These factors are unfortunately contributing to an increase in people presenting themselves as homelessness as they are finding it harder to find a home they can afford.

Cllr Dorrance also says they’re going to be implementing further measures due to the significantly increasing number of homeless in the county: “This summer, the council will be considering a Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan for Powys, designed to prevent homelessness wherever practicable and reduce the risk of homelessness happening again.

“The plan will include improving the availability of instant access and supported accommodation for those who need a helping hand to find and then keep a home.

“Our homelessness interventions along with our council homes building programme will make a difference but the challenge remains significant.

“We will do everything in our power to tackle the housing crisis the county is currently facing.”