Y Pwyllgor Llywodraeth Leol a Thai

Local Government and Housing Committee

16/11/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Carolyn Thomas MS
Jayne Bryant MS
Joel James MS
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS
Sam Rowlands MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Gaynor Toft Cyngor Sir Penfro
Pembrokeshire County Council
Laura Garvey-Cubbon Cyngor Caerdydd
Cardiff Council
Naomi Alleyne Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Welsh Local Government Association
Steve Porter Housing Official (Swansea)
Housing Official (Swansea)
Tracy Hague Cyngor Wrecsam
Wrexham Council

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Hunt Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Chloe Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Jonathan Baxter Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 9:15.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 9:15.

1. Cynnig i ethol Cadeirydd dros dro, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.22.
1. Motion to elect a temporary Chair in accordance with Standing Order 17.22

Good morning. The Chair is unable to attend today's meeting. Therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, I call for nominations for a temporary Chair.

I therefore declare that Carolyn Thomas has been appointed temporary Chair and I invite her to take the Chair's seat.

Penodwyd Carolyn Thomas yn Gadeirydd dros dro.
 

Carolyn Thomas was appointed temporary Chair.

2. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
2. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Thank you, Chloe. I'd like to welcome Members to the meeting of the Local Government and Housing Committee. This meeting is being held in a hybrid format. Aside from the adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of the meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation is available. We've received apologies from the Chair, John Griffiths, and could I ask if there are any declarations of interest? No, no declarations of interest. Thank you.

3. Digartrefedd - sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
3. Homelessness - evidence session 1

We move on to item 3, which is a homelessness evidence session. The purpose of the item is to hold a scrutiny session with stakeholders to inform the inquiry into homelessness, and I'd like to welcome the stakeholders, who will be attending for this item or attending remotely. Good morning, everybody. So, if you could just introduce yourselves, that would be really good. So, if we go to Naomi first. Okay, Naomi.

Sorry, good morning, all. Naomi Alleyne, director of social services and housing at the Welsh Local Government Association.

Bore da. Good morning. Gaynor Toft, head of housing and public protection with Pembrokeshire County Council.

Good morning, everybody. Steve Porter from Swansea council, and I'm lead on homelessness and tenancy support.

Bore da. Good morning. Tracy Hague, head of service housing for Wrexham County Borough Council.

Good morning, everyone. Laura Garvey-Cubbon, operational manager, strategy and housing need, Cardiff Council.

Thank you very much. And I'd just like to say that we have Jayne Bryant attending remotely as well. So, thank you very much.

We have some questions already. I was wondering, first of all, if you could tell me more about the supply of temporary accommodation. Local authorities here see a demand for temporary accommodation rising. At the moment, do you think it's stabilising? How sustainable is the 'no-one left out' policy, which is the current policy of the Welsh Government? And, do you think that the policy is likely to change over the coming months? So, how are you coping with that policy, and the demand for temporary accommodation? Who would like to go first?

Chair, I'll take that one. It's Laura, from Cardiff.

This situation is extremely difficult in terms of temporary accommodation, as I'm sure you're aware. In Cardiff, we have 1,500 units of temporary accommodation, and all of those are completely full. We have now, in the last few weeks, had to use hotel accommodation for the first time. So, that's hotels with no support at all for families, despite our 1,500 units of temporary accommodation. We've taken on 300 units of TA since COVID, so we've expanded significantly; the quality of that accommodation is really good, it's self-contained. However, demand is completely outstripping our supply at the moment. That demand is coming from a variety of different areas, but mostly from section 21 notices from landlords—that's our main increase. So, compared to last year, we've seen a 216 per cent increase in section 21 notices from private landlords—a massive increase. And of those landlords wanting those properties back from tenants, a 350 per cent increase in landlords selling properties.

So, that affects us in a twofold way. We have the tenants coming in terms of landlords asking them to leave, or getting evicted, and then the supply of our private rented accommodation is diminishing. So, it affects us in two ways. The demand coming in is much higher, and then our ability to move those people on from temporary accommodation is much diminished, because our private rented stock in Cardiff is coming down so much more. We have seen a tiny stabilisation in terms of section 21 notices in the last week or so. However, I can't confidently say that that could continue over the coming months. It is a really challenging situation at the moment, which I'm sure other colleagues will agree with.

09:20

I see lots of nodding going on there. Would anybody like to add to that at this stage? Steve.

I think one of the questions was: is the 'no-one left out' policy sustainable? Financially, no, unless we get more funding for next year and beyond. It's just difficult, I think, as Laura was saying, to have so many people in temporary accommodation at any one time. It's almost like a whole industry in itself. I don't know the answer to that, but I'm just saying how difficult it is from a local authority's perspective, both financially, with spending our own money as well as Welsh Government money, and from a staffing point of view, it's really difficult to manage.

Okay. Anybody else like to come in? I think everybody's just in agreement generally there. Okay, thank you. And the average length of stay in temporary accommodation, so whether some people are in temporary accommodation for extended periods and then the reason for this. So, again, Laura.

Our average length of stay in temporary accommodation is quite long. So, since the pandemic, we've seen a 20 per cent increase in lengths of stay in temporary accommodation. Our average at the moment is longer than a year in terms of families in temporary accommodation.

On the impacts of that, though, it's not a simple answer that long stays in temporary accommodation are always negative. So, we have young people, single people and families with fairly complex needs who really benefit from our supported accommodation and the support that they receive there. For example, young people coming out of care do benefit from a period of time in supported accommodation, where they receive independent living skills support before they move on to that permanent accommodation. So, it's not as clear-cut that long stays are always negative.

However, there are people, particularly families, really, with lower needs coming into homelessness, particularly those people I was talking about, leaving private rented accommodation with fewer complex support needs, for whom those lengths of stay are unacceptable, and we would like to reduce those. However, the supply of social housing and private rented accommodation means that that's really difficult at the moment. In terms of social housing, we're trying to increase our supply, by building 2,800 homes by 2027 in Cardiff. But it's just not quick. In housing terms, things are slow, aren't they? Years are quick in housing terms. So, it just means that we have a very difficult few months ahead of us, really.

And is it the same in other areas as well? Tracy, would you like to come in?

Yes, please. I think it will differ as well depending on household need and size. So, we will have some in temporary accommodation for lengthy periods of time if they have specific needs, so they may need a property with adaptations, for instance. Larger families can sometimes be in some of our temporary accommodation for long times if we're looking at five or six-bedroomed properties. But more recently, we have had families in temporary accommodation for just a week at a time, and we have been able to move them on.

We have particular issues in Wrexham in terms of single-person accommodation, and the demand for single-person accommodation far outstrips what's available. In terms of the private rented sector, it is unaffordable for us to discharge our duty into the private rented sector for single households, because they just cannot meet the rents.

Okay, thank you. Would anybody else like to come in? Gaynor.

Yes, just to add to what Tracy and Laura have said, it's a similar pattern in terms of a huge number of singles but now more recently, more families due to the section 21 reasons. But, one of the reasons why we are finding it challenging to move people on is due to complex needs as well. It's finding suitable accommodation for them because they have got a range of needs and that support available is quite limited or targeted to certain geographical areas.

I suppose the only difference in terms of Pembrokeshire's perspective is that people often turn down move-on accommodation options due to location, from a geographical perspective, as well. It takes an hour and a half to travel from the top to the bottom of the county, so if your social and family networks and your schools, for example, are in the south of the county, whereas our move-on accommodation would be available in the north, then they will turn that down, for obvious reasons.

So, that's the other thing where we have greater challenges within a rural authority. The location of where our housing need is tends to be concentrated, but then the availability of any move-on option might be in a different part of the county.

09:25

Yes. Just finally, it's important to note that we've all moved lots of people on through this period since March 2020. I know that Swansea has moved on—we've had over 1,100 positive move-ons. So, it's not the same people in temporary accommodation who were there from the start. We've all been successful in doing that. It's just a little bit slower, as Laura mentioned at the start, it's perhaps twice as long that people are in there now, from where we were back in 2019. And when people are there longer, it's not great for the individuals and it's costly and all the reasons we've outlined previously. So, we do move people through, it's just slow at the moment.

Okay, thank you. Thanks very much. So, Naomi, do you want to add anything? No, you're okay. So, this might sound like a daft question now, but, how much spare capacity is there in the system should demand for temporary accommodation increase? Do you have much spare capacity?

We have absolutely none. We are completely maxed out in terms of our temporary accommodation, and we're slowly running out of ideas as well, which is the scary thing. As I say, we are using hotel accommodation at the moment, on a night-by-night basis. We have six families at the moment placed in Travelodges across the city, which I never, ever thought we would be saying in Cardiff. So, in terms of our solutions and remedies to the issues, they will come online in January or February onwards. We've got modular builds that will start coming online in January, we've got registered social landlord voids, long-term voids that are coming on from the transitional accommodation capital programme. So, we've got solutions, but they're just not immediate, unfortunately. So, the next six weeks are a real pinch point, I think.

Unfortunately, yes. We are firefighting. And, as we have move-on accommodation come through in our own council stock, we're filling that and then we're backfilling the temporary accommodation. So, as quickly as we're moving people on, we're turning temporary accommodation around in the same day. Somebody moves out in the morning, we're putting somebody else back in in the afternoon.

Thank you. Within Pembrokeshire, we've got four hotels that we've commissioned and block booked. We do provide some support through those units of accommodation, but we have the four hotels and a hostel and they are full to the brim. The biggest pressure we have is trying to accommodate higher risk placements in relation to those with complex needs, and that's the biggest pressure that we've got in terms of supply of TA is those locations where we are able to provide that added support. The hostel arrangement that we are using as a triage facility is a similar situation in terms of almost having a waiting list, really, needing to access that for those particular reasons. I think we could commission more hotels and bed and breakfasts, but it is then the funding; it's the suitability of that accommodation in the long term, or even in the short term, and then the actual cost of it as well. We could fill this accommodation up three times over, it's just that now it comes down to the cost and the availability of the support to be provided in those locations as well.

09:30

Yes, much the same. We're just stacked, really. Prior to the pandemic, we used to have about 30, on average, in bed and breakfast at any one time, but wouldn't stay there long—all single people. Now we've got 120 in bed and breakfast. So, if you did the maths, it's quite easy: we've got four times as many in bed and breakfast and hotels than we had pre pandemic. So, we are stacked. We can flex it sometimes and take on more temporary accommodation when we need it, but we're really struggling, and especially out of hours. We've had to place people outside of Swansea, which we have never ever done or needed to do before. So, there are real pressure points.

Thank you, Chair. Sorry, I'm confused between muting and unmuting. I just wanted to reflect on everything that you've just heard from colleagues, from local authorities. Because one of the points is that local authorities are supportive of the principle of no-one left out, and local authorities have done a huge amount of work over the last couple of years particularly to ensure that the needs of homeless people are being met and that appropriate temporary accommodation is provided. But I think what you have heard from the panel this morning is just the challenges of making that happen, and the impact in terms of the numbers that's led to and the increases. And while there has been some increased funding, the resources to do that at the scale is still a significant challenge. And I think, certainly from members' point of view, they're concerned around the forthcoming winter, because that pressure has steadily increased over recent periods, and where will that lead us, obviously, in terms of the impact of the cost of living. So, I think it's not just where we are now, but what may happen over the next couple of months in terms of that impact. So, I just wanted to reiterate that there is support from local government for the principle, but the implementation is very, very challenging, as you've heard from the authorities themselves. Thank you.

Thanks for that, and thanks for the comments made so far. I just wonder, is there a risk, do you think, that the goodwill of local authorities and that amazing spirit of public service is being taken advantage of in terms of what's been asked of you to deliver, versus what is deliverable in reality? Do you think that's a risk?

I think, from my perspective—I'm not speaking on behalf of other authorities—it's the scale of the austerity that we are now currently facing. I've just left a budget meeting, because we are working through the scale of the millions of cuts and savings that we have to find over the next 12 months and beyond due to inflationary budget settlements, which are eagerly anticipated. But it is against the balance, not just for housing and homelessness, but it's the scale of the pressure that local authorities are under corporately from a finance perspective. We do not have any resilience to cope with additional pressure. From an individual and team staff perspective, it's a very challenging position that we are in to maintain staff morale and to keep—. The turnover of staff within homelessness is high, due to the pressures that they are under—

Sorry, just to cut across, Gaynor. You're absolutely right to point to pressures that are ahead, but what we've been talking about thus far has been pressures that have built up since the pandemic, and whilst money has always been tight, money's been made available to local authorities in quite significant levels over the pandemic. I just wonder how much of what's been asked of you has been deliverable, versus something that is a lovely idea and a really nice thing to have, but, in reality, your hands are tied, not just from a finance point of view, but just from a capacity, a supply point of view, it’s impossible, and whether you think all your goodwill and public service spirit is—. You talk about morale being drained; I wonder if some of that is being drained because you’ve been asked to do something that is just literally impossible to deliver. There’s nothing more morale draining than trying to do something that is impossible to do.

09:35

I think it’s the pace of the changes that has really bowled us over in some respects. We are in a perfect storm in terms of pandemic, the introduction of that 'no-one left out' principle, which obviously and rightly was introduced due to COVID restriction measures, and then now it is the continuation, and then further pressures that we’re under due to the Ukraine position, and so on and so forth. So it is the scale of the change that has caught us and is continuing to challenge local authorities, and will continue in the future. I’ll leave some of the others to come in if they want to to add to that.

I would agree with that. We have relied on the goodwill of officers during the pandemic. Housing is a vocation, it’s not a job, and officers did step up during the pandemic. They were on the front line delivering services six days a week, and they understood that they needed to do that because we were in a pandemic and a crisis. But there’s no let-up, and although we agree with the principles behind the 'no-one left out' approach, there is no infrastructure to support it. There is no accommodation to support it, irrespective of funding. If you could throw £10 million at Wrexham tomorrow, we still wouldn’t be able to come up with the goods because of the infrastructure and the time it would take to do developments. We have a huge issue with phosphates at the moment, and therefore nothing is being developed. So it is, as Gaynor pointed out, the timescales and the pressure and that officers feel quite rightly that we’re being asked to deliver something that is undeliverable.

Okay. Thanks, Tracy. Would anybody else like to come in on that one? Steve.

It’s a really interesting question, because it’s difficult to know the impact the cost of living will have and how the Ukraine crisis, et cetera, is going to pan out in the next period. If that does pan out the way we think it will, then it’s not deliverable. It’s as simple as that, in my view. However, we are very resourceful, and we have been resourceful the last couple of years, so we’ve kept rough-sleeping down to a minimum compared to a couple of years ago. The answer for me lies with the local housing allowance and making sure we can get people moving through the private rented sector. We will build properties, and that takes time, and that is expensive, but we are getting there. That’s going to take a year, 18 months, two years. We really need to tackle this issue about local housing allowance being completely out of kilter with what rents are being charged. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but that is the reality. We cannot house people in the private rented sector, it’s as simple as that—or very few—so we can’t move people. So, no, it’s not deliverable if we do nothing, but there are ways that we can improve it to at least meet some of the needs out there. 

Okay. Thank you, Steve. Are we ready to move on? Thank you. Mabon, would you like to take us through the next set of questions?

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi i gyd am ddod y bore yma a llenwi ein calonnau efo lot o hwyl.

Thanks, Chair. Thank you very much to you all for coming this morning and for filling our hearts with a lot of enthusiasm.

Mabon, before you carry on, can I just ask if everybody’s got the translation sorted okay? Yes, I’ve got nods. Brilliant. Sorry, Mabon. Thank you.

Iawn. Mae’n amlwg yn gyfnod dyrys iawn arnoch chi i gyd, a chyfnod anodd. Cyn i mi fynd i rai o’r cwestiynau sydd gen i fan hyn, gaf i ofyn—? Roeddech chi’n sôn am adran 21, a dwi’n meddwl bod rhai ohonoch chi wedi sôn bod yna niferoedd uwch o lawer o bobl yn cael eu troi allan oherwydd adran 21. A fuasai fo’n help os buasai yna bolisi mewn lle i atal troi allan yn ddi-fai dros gyfnod y gaeaf yma, er enghraifft, er mwyn atal y niferoedd mawr yma o bobl sydd yn cael eu troi allan oherwydd adran 21? Ydy hwnna’r math o bolisi fuasai’n eich helpu chi? Fe wnawn ni gychwyn gyda Wrecsam.

That’s fine. It’s clearly a very difficult time for you all, and it’s a difficult time in general. Before I move on to some of the questions I have here, I was going to ask—. You were talking about section 21, and I think that some of you mentioned that there were higher numbers of people being evicted due to section 21 notices. Would it help if there was a policy in place to prevent the no-fault evictions over the winter period, for example, in order to prevent this high number of people from being evicted with no fault of their own? Is that the kind of policy that would help you? If we can start with Wrexham.

09:40

That's a difficult one, really, because we do have the new Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 that's coming into force on 1 December, so I think the intention is that that will slow down because the notice period is extending. It's difficult to predict. It will help us in the short term, I would think, but in terms of some of our presentations, apart from the section 21s, it's mainly due to relationship breakdown, families not willing to accommodate any longer. So, that could be young people being asked to leave by mum and dad, it could be relationship breakdown between partners, and that's violent and non-violent relationship breakdown. And you can't stop those. So, it may assist in the short term to stop the evictions, as you say, over the winter period, but then we will have to pick up the fallout from that in six months' time. 

To put into perspective the section 21 notices, we've had a 75 per cent increase in the first months of this year compared to the previous year. I don't know if that's down to the renting homes Act or not; I think it's down to the market, it could be people going to Airbnb and not renting out their properties as they normally would. It's difficult to say, Mabon. It's not going to do any harm to introduce that, to delay it, but I think as Tracy has mentioned, it's maybe delaying the inevitable. 

I think we would take any help in any form at the moment, so I think even if it stopped a certain amount of people being evicted over the winter period, yes, we would grab that with both hands, I think. Although we have pressures in the coming months, it gives us time to plan for that. As I was mentioning, we've got solutions but they will be in the spring, really, by the time they're beneficial to us. So, anything that means that we have reduced pressure over the winter, I would welcome. 

I think it would be a very difficult decision to make, to be quite honest with you. Putting ourselves in the seat of a private landlord, they feel and believe that throughout the pandemic, they've continued to accommodate and support. There are multiple reasons why we are seeing an exodus from the market. Therefore, we are trying to keep private landlords on board with ourselves, because we have to look at them as a solution in the future, and we need to foster good working relationships with private landlords, because we cannot build or provide enough social housing to meet need. Therefore, we have to also look after the private rented sector market. Therefore, I would err on the side of caution in terms of introducing yet another stay of execution, really, in terms of evictions. So, I would move forward with caution in terms of that potential option. 

Thank you. Naomi, have you got a view on it on behalf of the WLGA? No. Okay. 

Diolch yn fawr. A gaf i wedyn holi—? Roeddech chi'n sôn, neu rai ohonoch chi yn sicr yn sôn, am yr LHA, y local housing allowance. Mae'n siŵr eich bod chi, fel ni yn y fan yma, wedi darllen adroddiad Sefydliad Bevan, neu'r adroddiadau mae Sefydliad Bevan wedi eu rhyddhau am y local housing allowance. Ond mae hynna'n rhoi darlun cenedlaethol. Dwi eisiau jest trio drilio lawr yn lleol beth ydy'r effaith yn eich ardaloedd chi. Faint o leoedd sydd, ydych chi'n meddwl, yn cyrraedd lefel local housing allowance yn eich ardaloedd chi? Beth ydy'r cynnydd sydd angen ei weld yn y local housing allowance? Faint sydd eisiau ei gynyddu er mwyn cyrraedd y rhent yn eich ardaloedd chi? Fedrwch chi ymhelaethu ychydig ar yr elfen yna, os gwelwch yn dda? Dwi'n gweld y gŵr yn Abertawe—Steve. 

Thank you very much. Can I therefore ask you—? You mentioned—well, some of you certainly mentioned—the LHA, the local housing allowance. I'm sure that you have, as we have here, read the Bevan Foundation report, or reports rather, that the Bevan Foundation have published about the local housing allowance. That gives a national view, but I want to drill down to a local level on what the effect of that is in your areas. How many areas, do you think, reach the local housing allowance level in your areas? What's the increase that we need to see in the local housing allowance? How much do we need to increase it in order to reach the rent in your areas? Can you expand on your views on that, please? I see that the gentleman in Swansea may want to respond.   

This isn't going to sound very good, actually. Let's take a three-bedroomed house in a certain area. The social housing grant in Swansea—it does differ in different areas—is roughly £500. And we cannot, in certain areas, get a property for under £1,000. So, we are looking at roughly double that local housing allowance for a three-bedroomed house. Historically in Swansea, we've had a healthy private rented sector, we've been able to house a lot of people there, there's the university, there's lots of private rented—. We just can't get it any more. So, the local housing allowance would have to raise substantially for that. As I say, I don't think, sometimes, that landlords charge a fair rent, but that is the reality, and that is what we're working with on a daily basis—that's what our staff are working with: not being able to house people in the private rented sector.

09:45

Thank you for that question. I think the absolute crux of the housing crisis at the moment is the difference between LHA and market rents—it's absolutely key. So, in Cardiff, just some figures: we've done analysis on the LHA rate compared to our market rents and, on average, it's a £400 difference across all the bedroom types. Obviously, for a one-bed that would be less, and for a four-bed it would be more. Ninety-eight per cent of the properties on Rightmove or Zoopla at the moment are £100 above LHA, so it gives you the scale of the issue at the moment. It is completely unaffordable for us at the moment. Without a significant increase in LHA, using the private rented accommodation market is really difficult.

Diolch. For a typical three-bedroom, the market rent is in the region of about £250 to £300 over local housing allowance rate per month and so, therefore, totally unaffordable for move-on accommodation. We've also got the added pressure on the private rented sector through refugee resettlement programmes now. We have over 300, potentially, within Pembrokeshire Ukrainians, to layer the demands that we also have from move-on as well. But, from an affordability perspective, that is the main reason we cannot move on.

Thank you. It was just to reflect that the Welsh Local Government Association has written to the UK Government around the LHA rates. This is an issue that has been around for quite a while, but I think the figures that colleagues have shared are actually quite stark. Because what could happen in the past is that there were some funding streams, for example, like the discretionary housing payment, that could support the gaps between people—between the rent and the LHA rate. But that's not something that can be there forever, and it's not sustainable in the longer term. But it's also reflected in some of our conversations with councils in England and elsewhere. This is an issue that's not just in Wales; it is experienced elsewhere. So, that needing to look at the current situation that we find ourselves in, because those rent increases are significant and the LHA rate has just not kept pace, and this has been for a number of years now, I think is getting to that crisis point. But this is something that has been burning slowly, I think, in the background around that differential.

Sori, os caf i, Gadeirydd, cwestiwn arall sydd gen i eto yn wahanol i beth sydd o fy mlaen i. Mae'r pwynt olaf yna gan Naomi yn dod â fi at yr un elfen arall dwi'n pryderu amdani ac eisiau trio drilio i lawr arni. Mae gennym ni, wrth gwrs, o fewn y Llywodraeth ac yng Nghymru y gallu i ddarparu discretionary housing payments, ond mae'r ystadegau wedi dangos nad yw rhai awdurdodau yn cymryd y pres i gyd i fyny, ddim yn ei ddefnyddio fo, ac eraill yn ei ddefnyddio fo'n llawn. Rŵan, dwi'n derbyn yr hyn roedd Naomi'n dweud, nad ydy o'n ateb hir dymor, ond pa rôl dŷch chi'n meddwl y mae'r discretionary housing payment yn medru ei chwarae? Ydych chi'n ei ddefnyddio fo'n llawn, ac ydych chi'n meddwl bod yna rôl i'w farchnata fo a'i hyrwyddo fo'n well, a hwyrach i gyfrannu mwy i'r pot yna? Gaf i ofyn i Gaynor, hwyrach, i roi'r ateb cyntaf, os oes ganddi ateb?

Sorry, if I may, Chair, I do have another question that's different again from what's on the paper. That final point from Naomi just brings me to another element that I'm concerned about and that I want to drill down into also. We do, of course, have within the Government and in Wales the ability to provide discretionary housing payments, but the statistics show that some authorities haven't been taking up all the funds and haven't been using all the funds, and that some others are using it all. Now, I accept what Naomi says as to it not being a long-term solution, but what role do you think the discretionary housing payment can play? Do you use it to its full potential, and is there a role to market and promote it better, or is there perhaps more that could be contributed to that pot? Can I ask Gaynor, perhaps, to respond first of all, if she has a response?

Diolch. We are in an overspend position with our DHP, and we have supplemented it with the homelessness prevention grant that we've been fortunate that the Welsh Government has allocated to each local authority. So, without that additional top-up, then we would be in a significant overspend position and would have to have stopped DHP payments at the end of the day. So, that pot of funding is invaluable as rent top-up. It's utilised for private rented sector top-up, as well as for social landlords. So, it is an invaluable tool, but, as you rightly pointed out, not a sustainable tool because it is short term, but we have seen a significant increase in demand and need for the utilisation of that funding pot.

09:50

Okay, thank you. Would anybody else like to come in? Steve.

Yes, it's a good question. I think, by and large, we use the majority of it, but to use the example I use of £500 over local housing allowance, it's simply just not right that we should use public money to give to a landlord double the amount of local housing allowance. And it's not sustainable. You know, after six months, that's a lot of money, and if the situation doesn't change in that family, then what do you do? Do you continue to pay that overinflated price? We are considering going quite a bit over local housing allowance at the moment. We never did before; we're doing that now. But we're not—[Inaudible.]—landlord money where we think it's not right.

Just very quickly, Chair, we're obviously very aware of some of the concerns that have been around, that DHP wasn't spent fully by all local authorities across Wales. I think that situation has changed significantly over the last couple of years, and I think, as Gaynor said, often, local authorities are supplementing and putting up their own funding into some of that support funding, but, obviously, looking at other funding streams that are available as well. So, it's not just the one, but trying to take a holistic approach to some of the issues or concerns that people may have around rent or debt or other funding. So, I think that situation of DHP is changing, but I think, as time goes on, there's more call for that funding than the funding that is available as well. But, again, it's conversations with Welsh Government around how we can supplement that and actually increase that pot.

Diolch. Yn olaf, os caf i, felly—maddeuwch i mi—o ran addasrwydd llety dros dro, gwnaf i roi un enghraifft sydd wedi bod yn y wasg: teulu yn fy etholaeth i â babi bach newydd yn cael eu rhoi mewn Travelodge, dwi'n meddwl oedd o, ac yna'n gorfod symud o'r Travelodge i B&B 30 milltir lawr y ffordd, ac yna o'r B&B yna i B&B arall 20 milltir lawr y ffordd, ac yna nôl i'r Travelodge gwreiddiol. Y cyfan efo babi newydd-anedig, a gallwch chi ddychmygu, mewn gwesty neu B&B, dydy'r adnoddau ddim yna i lanhau a golchi clytiau y babi a photeli y babi a'r adnoddau sydd eu hangen i baratoi bwyd a swper i'r teulu. Pa mor addas ydy rhai o'r lletyau dros dro sydd gennym ni yng Nghymru? Ydyn nhw'n addas i bwrpas? Ydyn nhw'n cyrraedd anghenion teuluol? A beth ydy'r sefyllfa go iawn sydd yn wynebu teuluoedd sydd angen llety, ar gyfer anghenion teulu, boed yn baratoi bwyd neu gael y plant i ymolchi ac yn y blaen? Beth ydy'r sefyllfa yna, a faint o bobl sydd mewn lletyau o'r fath efo chi?

Thank you. Finally, if I may, Chair—please forgive me—in terms of the suitability of temporary accommodation, I'll give you one example that's been in the press recently: it's a family in my constituency, they have a newborn baby and they've been put in a Travelodge, I think, and then they had to move from the Travelodge to a B&B about 30 miles down the road, from that B&B to another B&B 20 miles down the road, and then back to the original Travelodge. And that's all with a newborn baby, and you can imagine, in a hotel or a B&B, the resources just aren't there to clean and wash the baby's nappies and the bottles and to have all the cooking facilities necessary for the family. How suitable are some of these temporary accommodation facilities that we have in Wales? Are they fit for purpose? Do they meet the needs of families? And what's the real situation facing families that need accommodation, in relation to family needs, such as preparing food, enabling their children to wash and so on? What's the situation, and how many people do you have in such accommodation?

I think I'm kicking off on this one. Yes, the example that you've described is far from satisfactory, but, unfortunately, we are in that position where, due to the lack of supply of temporary accommodation in suitable locations, those examples unfortunately are arising. You know, if we are taking on temporary accommodation, we do inspect and make sure that it is compliant. If we've taken that temporary accommodation on for a period of time, then we can build through the actual support that is required for those households who are accommodated there. We tend to try—. With families in particular, this is where we are using our own accommodation as temporary accommodation from our own housing stock. So, we very reluctantly would place a family in B&B accommodation. That's not to say that it doesn't happen but on an emergency perspective, then to move on to a house or a flat that is more suited for their needs. So, that's the position that we're in in Pembrokeshire.

We have seen an escalation in terms of numbers of families who are homeless, and quite a significant number of children now as part of families who are homeless. So, that is an unfortunate position that we've been finding ourselves in more recently.

09:55

Thank you. Does anybody else want to come in? Okay, Tracy and then Laura. Tracy.

Thank you. Just to agree with Gaynor, really, and I know colleagues across the north prioritise families into self-contained units as soon as is possible. That is a priority certainly for us in Wrexham. There are occasions when we have to put families into hotels, especially in an emergency if somebody approaches us on an out-of-hours basis and that's all we've got. But we very quickly assess the needs of that family and try and get them as close as we can to schools and transport, especially if the family work—mum and dad may work. We need to get them close to their employment. And those conversations are had right at the very beginning so that we can meet the needs of the family. And as Gaynor pointed out, unfortunately there are occasions when some children are in hotels and bed and breakfasts, but we try and keep those timescales very, very short.

Yes, just to echo other comments, really. We only have about six families in hotels at present, with no support at all. We have really good-quality temporary accommodation. So, if we talk about it generally, the quality of TA in Cardiff is very good. We've made a huge investment in terms of our self-contained, modular family temporary accommodation since COVID. So, we've really put some emphasis on getting rid of the low-quality accommodation that we had and moving towards self-contained, really good-quality family temporary accommodation. But it's just not enough at the moment to deal with incoming demand. However, as other authorities have said, they are very short stays in that hotel accommodation. We move someone into that good-quality TA within a few days, a week. But, still, it's unacceptable for that family, I completely take that.

Okay, thank you. I think we can move on to the next set of questions now. So, we've got Joel.

Thank you, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for coming in this morning. It's been absolutely fascinating so far, all the evidence that we're gathering. And I know it's briefly been touched upon by Steve, and I know Gaynor also mentioned it briefly as well, about the rise in section 21 evictions, and I just wanted to get some idea of why that is. I know Steve mentioned that some people are selling up to move into Airbnbs and everything, but, from my discussions with people who are landlords, it's just not a favourable environment for them anymore. There's no money in it for them. And I just wanted to see if that's something that you recognise. Is there a climate that is almost anti-landlord, if that makes sense?

Thank you for that question—a really interesting question. So, we did a survey of Cardiff landlords because we wanted to understand why we had such an increase in section 21s. So, we've got some specific data on this question. So, when we asked landlords, 'Why are you selling a property?' and, 'Are you planning to sell a property within the next year or two?', we had some interesting responses. So, of the landlords we surveyed in Cardiff, which is a significant number, 40 per cent had already sold a property and 70 per cent were thinking about selling a property in the next two years. Of the reasons cited for the sale of that property, No. 1, unfortunately, was the renting homes legislation that is coming in. Landlords are fearful of the move towards tenants having more power, I guess, and it being more difficult to evict those tenants. But it's not just renting homes; it's the inflation of property prices. It happened at the same time as renting homes as well as the changes in taxation. So, it was those three different points that were a perfect storm that led landlords to sell those properties. That's our evidence that we've got in Cardiff.

Yes, I absolutely mirror that, Laura. I would probably think, on growing Airbnbs—. I know a couple of friends of mine, actually, who moved from renting a property in a historically rented area of Swansea to an Airbnb, because they could make more money renting the property out for three months a year than 12 months a year. Hopefully, the legislation that's coming in in April, the 50 per cent rate, may change that in a more positive way, but I think the overriding factor, perhaps, is rented homes and the market itself at the moment. 

10:00

Okay, thank you. Would anybody else like to come in? Tracy. 

Thank you. We've conducted a similar survey to Cardiff, just in terms of those landlords who we've contacted who've already served the section 21 notice. And half of those have cited that it is as a direct result of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, and the other half have given us three other reasons. One was the rent not being paid, so arrears of rent, anti-social behaviour, and interestingly, that they needed their properties back to move in themselves, or to move family members in who couldn't afford the accommodation that they were in, so they needed it back for themselves. 

Okay, thank you. Gaynor, do you want to add anything? No. Sorry, Steve.

Yes, I want to come in to sort of move away from the private rented sector just little, because it's not the only reason why people are presenting as homeless. We are getting more presentations than ever, and they're continuously high, and therefore, all the reasons are up higher than they used to be. So, I think Gaynor mentioned relationship breakdowns as one of the highest numbers that present to us, both non-violent and violent. And they are very difficult to prevent, unless you've got a really good mediation service. Now, whether that's an impact of the pandemic, who knows, where people have had their kids longer than they've wanted to, or people have just had a relationship breakdown. But I want to stress: it's not just the private rented market that is causing pressure in the system. 

Yes, just to come in on that, Steve, I completely agree with you. In addition, we've also seen tenants relinquishing private rented properties. So, it's not just landlords asking for properties back, it's tenants who are really fearful that they won't be able to afford that property; they're scared of the cost-of-living crisis, and they think that coming through homelessness, they will get social housing, and we've seen that, again and again, coming through, unfortunately. 

Yes, that's a good point. Thank you. Any more questions, Joel?

Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for those responses. And, Tracy, that was quite a good point at the end then. I know Steve mentioned then that, obviously, there's an increase in people presenting themselves as homeless, and there are different reasons. I know we've just discussed the private rented sector, and then, obviously, Tracy mentioned relationship breakdowns. I'm just wanting to get a flavour of the other reasons then. Are there other reasons that have just risen to the surface, if that makes sense, that can be easily identified as an increase of 'Well, this is a section of why, all of a sudden, we're getting that increase in homelessness'? And what is your opinion of the effectiveness of the preventions that are in place to try and tackle that before it becomes an issue, as they say?

Yes. Obviously, the cost of living is starting to take hold now, so, we're starting to see that impact as well. The problem lies, I think, in not being able to move people on. So, what you get is people in an overcrowded situation, or people unhappy at home. Historically, we've been able to keep them there, and move them through a normal allocations policy, or just being able to persuade people to keep them there. But because people are not getting housed, it comes to crisis point, and therefore, you get more people coming into the system, if that makes any sense. I don't know if I've explained that very well. So, because of the lack of move-on, it creates problems in the system and people become homeless—leaving prison, relationship breakdowns or repossessions, et cetera. We can't keep people at bay for that long.

10:05

Yes, I agree with Steve in terms of those comments. From a stock turnover perspective as a social landlord, we have seen a reduction in our stock—[Inaudible.]—call them. People are staying put, but then again they might, as Steve has described, be in an overcrowded situation, so there is family tension that arises as a result of that as well. 

The other significant pressure that we've seen is the nature of the presentations that we've seen. Obviously now with the 'no-one left out' approach, our assessment of priority need has adjusted, so we are accepting more individuals as homeless, and taking that requirement on board in terms of finding them accommodation, but it is the level of support that is needed for them, then. Therefore, we do find it quite challenging—the access into support services—especially if there's a statutory support service, be it through mental health or substance misuse, so access into those services does continue to be a challenge for us. 

We do have allocations of housing support grant, for example, which is about maintaining housing support as such, but what we are finding is that, even within the third sector that we commission to provide those support services for us, they themselves have difficulty fulfilling their contracts, due to recruitment challenges, due to levels of pay, so we are having difficulty in terms of recruiting those commissioned services and the value of the contracts aren't enough either, due to the funding mechanism. There has been an increase in demand, and obviously the funding for housing support grants has increased, but it hasn't increased proportionately with the level of homelessness and the support needs that have arisen more recently.

Thank you, Gaynor. Obviously, you mentioned there the challenges that people are having in terms of accessing the support, then, and I was just wondering if you could go into a bit more detail about that, really. So people who are in temporary accommodation, the effectiveness of the support that's there and the challenges that they are under to try and access it. But also, then, thinking about those who have more complex needs, how is that support assisting them, then, if it's difficult to access?

So, with our assessed need, obviously, when somebody presents to us as homeless, there is an assessment of need, and then you commission the support that is required for them. There needs to be—. Obviously, the willingness to engage with that support is one thing, but it is about the capacity within the system then, is what I'm saying, to actually meet those needs and to get the outreach services to where the homeless are living currently. Capacity is a challenge for health services, for example, to provide those outreach services, especially in a rural area, so this is where I'm saying that the challenge is. It's about, basically, the capacity within the sector to meet the needs that are required.

Okay. Unless anyone else has anything to add on that, that's my questioning—. Oh, yes—go on.

Thank you. I think one of the points is that tackling homelessness and supporting homeless people isn't just down to homeless teams and housing. This requires a public service and a much broader response, and it does require other agencies to provide support at appropriate times. So, as Gaynor was saying, sometimes it may be at assessment; it may be a mental health need or to tackle substance misuse. But again, because of capacity in those services, they're not always responsive, and because of, sometimes, the lifestyle—so, if somebody sets an appointment for 10 o'clock in the morning, they may not turn up to that appointment, and then they say, 'Oh, well, they're off our books'. There does need to be that broader understanding and compassion around the cohort that we are looking to support, because housing and a roof over their heads is one aspect, but in terms of maintaining tenancies, it does require a much broader, collective response from other agencies. So, I think it's an important point, but homelessness needs to be tackled collectively, not just by officers within homelessness teams and housing.

Just to come in on that, we did a lot of work on this over the pandemic, and we set up a multidisciplinary team in Cardiff to particularly tackle single homelessness, with complex needs. So, we've got health, police, probation—they all sit together in one room and tackle a single person's complex needs together. For example, we have our homelessness GP who goes out to our rough sleepers. Literally, the GP goes on the streets and prescribes and everything to our rough sleepers, and that is what is needed here. I completely echo what has been said: homelessness is not just a housing issue. 

10:10

Thank you. Yes, a good point. Thank you very much. We're going to move on now to Jayne. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Good morning, everybody, and thank you very much for your evidence this morning. You've really given us a very stark picture of how things are. Something you've all touched on is the 'no-one left out' policy and how that's impacted local authority resources. I think Tracy has said about the situation in Wrexham and perhaps the amount of money that might be needed, and I'm just trying to look at what you think might be needed in terms of financial—or anything else—support to continue with that policy, if that's possible. And also, Gaynor, you mentioned staff morale, and we've talked around the staffing of this as well, so perhaps you could just outline what you think is actually needed for this policy to work. 

I think there's no one thing that we need. I've said before, in terms of Wrexham, we're desperate for our phosphates issue to be resolved, because without that being resolved, we can't develop, we can't remodel, we're in a stalemate. And we don't know yet how long it will take to resolve that, so we can't plan ahead because we really don't know.

And whereas we were extremely grateful for the additional funding that we had in terms of the housing support grant, we haven't had anything through for the statutory function. And, in Wrexham, my officers have got 807 open cases and there are 10 officers, and although we need the support services in, those officers need to undertake the assessments so that we comply with the legislation. And they're tired, because there are not enough of them. But, in terms of funding, we cannot utilise the housing support grant to get more resources in. We need more bodies. And for the 'everyone in' approach to work, we feel that we need prevention officers. We don't do any prevention at the moment, because people come to us in crisis. We're trying to get people to come to us sooner so that we can work with them, which is part of our rapid rehousing approach, moving forward. So, we're trying to do some work around that to get people to come to us, to market our function, if you like—to come to us sooner rather than later, when you think you might become homeless, rather than when you're actually being served your notice or the bailiffs are at the door, for instance. But we have no prevention officers, and we feel, as a service, that we probably need between five and 10 of those, but there's no funding for them. So, on a basic level, although we're grateful for the money that we've had, and through the pandemic, there was nothing for the statutory function, and we still have to deliver that function. I feel that sometimes, that's forgotten. 

Thank you. I totally concur with Tracy's comments there. We've got nine officers, with 660 cases between them, so we have seen similar patterns in terms of that escalation. And I mentioned earlier about the staff turnover. We have huge staff turnover within our housing options, the homelessness service, who, as soon as they're able to see another suitable job within housing—they want to remain in housing but move on to other roles. And, as well as obviously welcoming the increase in the housing support grant, we've also had other grants: transitional accommodation capital programme, homelessness prevention, 'no-one left out' grants. So, we've had a huge number of opportunities to bid for grants, for example, under TACP, but that in itself causes an administrative burden in terms of that we have to manage those grants, we have to bid for them, we need capacity to deliver them, and that comes back to Tracy's comments in that we haven't had any funding for our core homelessness service, but neither have we had funding in relation to building that capacity for accessing and administrating those grants either in terms of that development capacity. We're all desperately seeing that it's an increase in housing supply that we need. We need to build more, we need to acquire more, but that in itself takes capacity and that's where we are struggling to deliver on the ambitions.

10:15

Yes. In simple terms, we'd like funding to remain the same—if that's the question—for next year at least, because otherwise we can't sustain people in the 'no-one left out' policy. I think we have to actually go back and think, 'Is that the right policy?' And what I mean by that is that, of course, we all agree that we don't want to see rough-sleeping and we don't want to see—. But what we've done is create a whole industry of temporary accommodation in the past couple of years, and we've created a reliance on it. So, I would actually start again and say, 'Right, what do we want? Do you want everybody to have an offer of suitable accommodation?', which is different to 'no-one left out'. We have got, I would say, 20 per cent to 25 per cent of people within our temporary accommodation stock who have had more than one offer and have refused it, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not for good reason, but know that we will continue to provide temporary accommodation. So, actually, there is no incentive for them to move on—for some. Because the offer of accommodation that we've got, going back to Mabon's point, is okay—it's not perfect, but it's okay. But we've had quite a few people refuse the offer to move on to much more suitable accommodation in our view. So, I think we need to go back and start again: what do we mean by 'no-one left out'? Because, at the moment, we're just creating a temporary accommodation—.

Okay, thank you for that. Would anybody else like to come in on that one? Okay. Jayne, another question.

Thank you, Chair. Just around the communication with local communities as well, perhaps you could just give us an outline or talk a little bit about any concerns or feedback that you might have had from communities where temporary accommodation has been sourced and just the efforts that are gone to by local authorities to ensure those good community relations.

It's a nightmare. Trying to please everyone is impossible. As everyone on this call knows, you can't do that. What you've got to do is, obviously, communicate. We've created temporary accommodation providers in various parts of Swansea and it's been a struggle. But it's by talking to people and making sure that the community is involved—that's the only way to do it, but it has been a real challenge. But, so far, our members have been quite supportive of it. But, to go back to an earlier question, that goodwill might run out if anti-social behaviour continues to create problems. But, at the moment, we've been able to communicate with them and keep it to a minimum.

Okay, thanks Steve. And Gaynor, did you want to come in?

Yes. We've had a number of varying community tensions where we've located a hostel and commissioned and taken over a hotel, as such, with mixed responses really—on the whole, a lot of community support, which is really positive, with a minority then, really, especially where you've got access to social media, and it generates a whole industry in its own right of negativity. So, we've tried to manage that as best we can. We've got examples of where hotel proprietors have gone over and above the call of their duty, have really fostered excellent community engagement, kept neighbours informed of what's happening and really got a positive community response. We've also, obviously, ensured that local county councillors and local members are informed—that's very important. We try to foster that community champion, that they are there on the positive elements of us locating the homeless within their communities. That obviously has a mixed response as well, but that's where we try and just keep a continuous or a regular communication channel open. Fostering good relationships with the police as well; they often might get calls for response, so it is about—. We have weekly meetings with the police, for example, to discuss various locations and cases, so it is that ongoing communication and dialogue.

10:20

Okay, thank you. Would anybody else like to come in on this? Okay. Naomi.

Just very quickly—I don't want to take us on to a different subject, but I think what both Tracy and Gaynor have reflected is the important role that local authorities play in managing where those hostels are, how they are opened, how they engage with the community, and that ongoing oversight and overview to be able to respond. I think I was just reflecting—. Obviously, and I don't want to derail this committee, but, obviously, there is the use of temporary accommodation in different parts of Wales at the moment for asylum seekers, and we could learn lessons from the way that both Gaynor and Tracy—and, I'm sure, Steve and Laura—reflect and manage those hotels locally. So, it's just—. A different issue, but still the same issue in terms of the impact on communities and the importance of working with them and responding to their needs as well, or concerns.

Okay. Is that it, then? Okay, nobody else? Oh, Mabon, you wanted to come in on something.

Ie, os caf i. Dau bwynt sydyn. Yng ngoleuni'r drafodaeth sydd wedi bod, dwi eisiau datgan diddordeb sydd ar y record cyhoeddus, os gwelwch yn dda.

Ond os caf i jest holi un peth ar rywbeth roedd Steve wedi ei ddweud, mae'n amlwg bod pawb sydd yma'n bresennol, ac eraill dwi wedi eu clywed, yn sôn eu bod nhw'n gefnogol o'r polisi 'no-one left out', fod o'n bolisi, o ran yr egwyddor tu ôl iddo fo, cywir, ond fod o wedi achosi a chreu trafferthion nas gwelwyd—neu nas rhagwelwyd, o bosib—a Steve wedi herio a gofyn, 'Wel, ai dyna'r polisi cywir?' Felly dwi'n gwybod beth ydy barn Steve ar hynny, ond dwi'n meddwl ei fod o yn gwestiwn diddorol, a dwi eisiau clywed barn pobl eraill yn bresennol i weld beth ydy'ch barn chi ar yn hyn roedd Steve yn ei ddweud am y polisi hwnnw, os gwelwch yn dda.

Yes, if I may. Two quick points. In light of the discussion that's just been had, I wanted to declare an interest that is on the public record, please.

But if I may just ask one thing on what Steve said, it's clear that everyone in attendance and others have mentioned that they're supportive of the 'no-one left out' policy in terms of the principle behind it, they agree that it's a good thing, but that it's caused problems that hadn't been foreseen, and Steve had challenged this and asked whether that was the right policy. I know that's Steve's opinion, but I think it's an interesting question, and I wanted to hear other people's opinions too on what Steve was saying about the policy.

So, in terms of the 'no-one left out', we're quite particular in Cardiff that we already had this policy, so there is no change for us. We house all single people, regardless of whether they're in priority need, and we have done for a few years. So, that is why we have such a scale of temporary accommodation, because we've already housed single people not in priority need, so, for us, there isn't a massive impact in terms of 'no-one left out'; we already did this. It's all the other impacts that are impacting us more.

I would say that, in certain circumstances, the 'no-one left out' policy takes away people's ability to find their own solutions, or the council have to. The council have to; they will find you somewhere. We're not being asked for mediation services like we used to, in terms of relationships, because they don't need to mend their relationships at home, because they know that the council have got to pick them up. And we're finding that that extends then to other agencies and third sector, which, when somebody approaches them, they'll just say, 'Go to the council. They've got to find you somewhere.' So, again, if you like, the responsibility is put firmly on the housing options departments, and other partner agencies do have that—. They're allowed, if you like, to walk away now, because the responsibility lies firmly with the local authority.

The only thing I'd add to that is the knock-on from that in relation to the allocations policies and the housing waiting lists that we have for allocations through our housing register. So, obviously, in terms of priority bandings, as we have in Pembrokeshire, we have seen an increase in numbers now, obviously, who have got a high priority from a banding perspective, as far as the allocations are concerned. So, we are seeing that additional demand working its way through from homelessness into our allocations and our demands on the social housing sector. So, it is how it's all interrelated then, really, and about how people are understanding the system in terms of being able to increase your priority on that waiting list for social housing. So, they are all interlinked and very sensitive to each other as well.

10:25

Okay. Right, I think we need to move on now, don't we, to housing supply. We've got five minutes left. Sam.

Thank you, Chair; thanks, everybody. I've got to say, on the comments Naomi made earlier, she could always consider a career in the diplomatic service from the way she handled that. [Laughter.] So, well done. I want to move on to talk about housing supply and some of the, perhaps, issues or opportunities that there might be there. Just looking at the existing social housing stock, I wonder if any of you have any thoughts about whether there are any opportunities to ensure that those properties in the existing housing stock—whether there are opportunities to make more of them available to those households who are in temporary accommodation.

In terms of making them more available to people in TA, do you mean in terms of using them as temporary accommodation or letting them to people in temporary accommodation, because there are two different issues there?

Okay. So, in terms of making them available as temporary accommodation, really, that's a sticking plaster on the issue. It just means we increase and increase our temporary accommodation, and we don't have them move out, because we've taken that stock from permanent accommodation. So, we don't think that that's the route that we want to go down, and it's contrary, really, to the rapid rehousing approach that we're trying to move towards, which is a reduction in temporary accommodation.

In terms of letting exclusively our social housing to people in temporary accommodation, that also has issues, because it doesn't give us the flow of social housing that letting in other ways does. If we take, for example, a beneficial transfer, when someone is under-occupying a really large family accommodation, if we let them a smaller property, we then get that flow of family accommodation coming to us, which we can let to temporary accommodation. So, if we let exclusively to homeless clients, we simply don't have that flow of accommodation and it creates other issues, so we can't tackle overcrowding, we can't tackle all our other emergency situations that we need to outside of homelessness. So, it needs to be a balance. We let 100 per cent lets to homelessness during the pandemic, and we saw then a reduction in our voids as a result of that, so we're not going back to that 100 per cent let situation, because it creates other issues. So, it's a fine balance.

You obviously need a short-, medium- and long-term strategy to creating more homes, as we all have, but, for us, the quickest way that we created more properties and stock was simply—it doesn't sit right, but—acquisitions, so purchasing back old social housing properties. The reason for that was because they were almost ready-made to go back into. They needed very little work. When you buy a new-build site or perhaps an old hotel, it's costing a lot of money and it's taking a huge amount of time. So, for us, the ability through phase 2 money and—[Inaudible.]—money to act to acquire property has created quite a few properties in our stock, which has clearly helped the ability to put people on the system fairly quickly.

Can I just come back to that point before we—? I know others want to come in. So, you mentioned right at the start the number of section 21 and the number of landlords simply selling up. I reckon there's a fairly easy business case to make to prove that, by either the local authority or the housing association purchasing those properties that landlords are selling up—. You could probably stack up a business case that shows it would be an invest-to-save scheme for the local authority. So, why aren't you doing it at the rate you'd want to see? Is it a bureaucratic issue—by the time you get to actually purchasing it, it's already been sold on the market? Or what's the issue there?

10:30

So, in terms of—

So, in terms of buy-backs, we've done the same as Steve. So, we've done 25 buy-backs this year. In terms of targeting private landlords specifically, we are looking at that. However, we don't want to create a perverse incentive where landlords will try and evict a tenant to get the local authority to buy the property. So, again, it's a fine balance. However, we are looking at that particular circumstance with families that are particularly hard to house. For example, the property might have already been adapted for them or it might be a very large family. We are looking at that option, definitely.

Okay, thank you, Laura. Gaynor, did you want to come in? 

Yes, thank you. So, similarly in Pembrokeshire, we have a robust acquisitions programme, especially of ex-council houses, because we know that we can make them compliant, for example. In terms of purchases in the private rented sector, we are again entering that market in terms of buying those properties rather than seeing people made homeless. What we have to be mindful of is our requirements as a social landlord to achieve Welsh housing quality standard compliance. So, we have to be mindful of the actual standards within that property and its ability to be compliant from a space standard and from an energy efficiency perspective. We have those decarbonisation targets that are also being placed upon us as social landlords. Therefore, we can't buy any property back from any landlord—we have to be mindful of its condition and suitability and whether we can make it suitable as well. We are also looking at the leasing scheme. We're a member of Leasing Scheme Wales, and we can see that, potentially, growing in the future, and would like to see that growing in the future as well, as an incentive to landlords, to prevent them from leaving the market, for example, and that we de-risk that whole rental process for them by leasing those properties from them.

Okay. We did hear, previously, that standards, when you're looking to aquire accomodation, have been relaxed currently. So, is that something that's been fed back to you throught the WLGA? Okay, all right, thank you. Tracy.

Just to add to a couple of points made by the others, we've had three buy-backs fall through of late, and that's because the sellers have had to withdraw from the market because they can't afford the next step up on the property ladder due to the increase in mortgages. So, we were going through three buy-backs of ex-council properties, but, unfortunately, the sellers have had to withdraw for no other reason than they can't afford the property that they were looking for.

In terms of the TACP, we've just been been given two properties that our partner RSL have purchased under that scheme, and they have come through to us this week—two properties for homeless who are in temporary accommodation. So, we'll be looking to move two families through by the end of this week, if we can. And we have a scheme that we've set up in Wrexham, corporately, where we are looking to purchase properties that we may need not just for homeless, but for those who we're going to help into secure accommodation from Ukraine, and other refugees that are coming to Wrexham, and also to assist with social care in terms of those who need adaptive properties who come through social care, those with our leaving-care team—young people leaving care; do we need to look for supported accommodation for those?—and also to assist with our colleagues who deal with fostering and foster placements, because we have a high demand for accommodation for those who are willing to foster but don't have the bed spaces. So, we're taking a corporate approach now to look at accommodation, because what we're finding is that each department is fighting for the same property.

Yes, thanks, Chair. I'm really conscious of time, so I'm just going to, perhaps, jump through a couple of bits quickly. You mentioned the Leasing Scheme Wales programme that's been set up. I just wonder if you have any thoughts on whether there's any potential for that to be scaled up, to be improved, to be better at all, and how that might support you. If not, don't worry, we can move on.

10:35

Yes, Swansea, as I mentioned earlier, historically had a really healthy private rented sector. We hadn't needed a private rented leasing scheme. We'd have a scheme where we'd just go out and find property. That's dried up completely, and so, for the first time ever, we're considering moving to a leasing scheme because we have to. What I'm conscious of is are there properties there at the moment to start up, because it does cost a little bit of money and it's a bit of work, so I'm not sure whether we'll get the gain from it, but we are considering it. 

So, in terms of the Welsh Government leasing scheme, we have 22 properties on the scheme, and, hopefully, 10 more this year. We think it's a really excellent scheme, and it's a really good offer for landlords. However, it simply can't compete with the market rents at the moment. So, we sell it at every opportunity we can for landlords in terms of the additional benefits that it gives—they can step away from that property and it's a stress-free income for them; we'll take on everything. However, when they can get £400, £500 a month extra, they're willing to take that stress, effectively. 

I think the one thing that Welsh Government could do is better advertising of the scheme. So, a big national campaign would be really welcome. We do our own in Cardiff, but some kind of Welsh Government backing would be really welcome.

Okay, thank you. That's useful. Thanks very much. Tracy. 

Thank you. We set up our own local lettings agency in 2015 and we now have 155 properties that we manage in the private rented sector through that portfolio. We've recently joined the leasing scheme, and we've had one property through that, and that's something that we will continue to explore. We have had some success since we set up our local lettings agency in 2015, and we have got some good relationships with landlords in the private rented sector, but, unfortunately, we think we've reached the limit now. 

All right. Can I just quickly cover off another point in terms of housing supply, looking slightly further long term? I appreciate it's hard to do that when you've got such high demand right in front of you. We mentioned earlier some of the challenges around just simply having more houses being built, around phosphates. I think my understanding, in the Wrexham, Flintshire area, is that around 2,500 properties are currently being held up because of the phosphates issue alone, and that's not just going to have an impact now, but it's going to have a knock-on effect for years and years to come. I'm just wondering if you have any thoughts around where we can sensibly look to unblock some of those issues to ensure that we're not having the same conversation in five and 10 years' time as we're having this morning.

Okay. Anybody? Planning not housing maybe. [Laughter.] Naomi. 

Maybe that's something we could come back to you on in a written response, Chair. Obviously, we are concerned around some of those issues around phosphates, but some of those discussions, certainly from a WLGA point, are led by a colleague, so I'd be happy to come back to you with a written response to that one. 

That would be great. Thank you very much. It does seem to be a big issue. Okay. Everybody all right there with questions? Yes. We have run over by eight minutes, so apologies for keeping you, but it's been a really, really useful session. So, thank you very much to you all for providing all that information; we've made note of it all. So, at the end of the session, I'd just like to say thank you for the evidence and that a transcript will be sent to you for checking, if you'd like to have a look at that when you receive it. Thanks very much. 

Thank you. Diolch. 

4. Papurau i'w nodi
4. Papers to note

We're going to move on to the next session now, thank you. Okay, all the witnesses have left now. Great. So, item 4 is papers to note. There are eight papers. I'll just go through them very quickly. So, paper 2 is a letter from the Minister for Finance and Local Government in relation to general ministerial scrutiny. Paper 3 is a letter from the Minister for Climate Change in relation to general ministerial scrutiny. Paper 4 is a letter from the Minister for Climate Change to the Llywydd in relation to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill LCM, which is later on in the agenda as well.

Paper 5 is a letter from the Chair of the Petitions Committee in relation to petition P-06-1272, 'Ban the use of 'no pet clauses' in tenancy agreements in Wales'. I'd just like to come in, as that is something that I have had lots of representation on. I've asked questions, and so have other MSs as well, in the Senedd, and I've been told that, normally, in normal circumstances, if people pay just a little bit extra beforehand, like a bond, then normally it's okay, but that's not what I'm actually hearing. And with there being a shortage of private sector lets now, landlords can be more choosy about who they have as tenants, and so if pets are coming in they're just saying, 'no'. And then I've had animal charities also raising this as a huge issue, because people can't home pets because they live in rented accommodation, so it's a bit of a vicious circle. So, I just wondered if perhaps this is something we'd like to discuss later in the private session and maybe do a bit of work on it.

Paper 6 is a letter from the Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee to the Minister for Climate Change in relation to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill LCM, which is being discussed later. Paper 7 is a letter from the Minister for Finance and Local Government to the Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee in relation to the Non-Domestic Rating (Chargeable amounts) Regulations 2022. Paper 8 is correspondence between the Chair and the Minister for Climate Change in relation to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill LCM. Paper 9 is correspondence between the Chair and the Minister for Climate Change in relation to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill LCM.

So, are Members content to note the papers, and we can discuss later? Yes, Mabon.

10:40

Os caf i jest roi ar record, os caf i, os gwelwch yn dda, ym mhapur 4.3, tudalennau pecyn 29 i 30, llythyr y Gweinidog at y Llywydd, os gwnaf i ddyfynnu un paragraff ohono, mae'n dweud:

'Oherwydd y cawsom wybod yn hwyr am y gwelliannau a gyflwynwyd, ni fydd modd ei osod o fewn dyddiad cau arferol Rheol Sefydlog 29 o bythefnos, fodd bynnag, bydd yn cael ei osod cyn gynted â phosibl.'

Mae hynny yng nghyd-destun un o'r LCMs. Dwi'n meddwl ei bod hi'n gwbl annerbyniol, unwaith eto, fod y broses yma yn golygu bod llai o amser yn mynd i fod ar gael. Does yna ddim amser beth bynnag i graffu. Mae'n golygu bod yna lai o amser i graffu yn fan yma, ac, os medrwn ni ryw ffordd neu'i gilydd gael y neges drosodd i San Steffan fod y ffordd maen nhw'n delio ag ac yn trin y ddeddfwrfa hon yn gwbl annerbyniol—.

If I could put on the record, if I may, please, that paper 4.3, on pack pages 29 to 30, the letter from the Minister to the Llywydd, if I just quote one paragraph of it, it says that:

'Due to the late notification of the amendments being tabled, it will not be possible to lay this within the normal two-week Standing Order 29 deadline, however it will be laid as soon as possible.'

That's in the context of one of the LCMs. I think it's completely unacceptable, once again, that this process means that there is less time available. There's no time, as it is, to scrutinise. It means that there is even less time to scrutinise this, and if there is any way for us to give Westminster the message that the way that they deal with and treat this legislature is completely unacceptable—.

Okay. Thank you, Mabon. I know you've raised this point before—an important point to make. Thank you. Is that something we could write on, from the committee? 

The committee will be reporting on that particular LCM, so those comments can be fed into the committee's view, if Members wish to do so.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, we move on to item 5, which is the motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Are there any objections to this? No objections. Thank you.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:43.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:43.