Plan to ease affordable housing pressures agreed

An innovative pilot scheme designed to help tackle an immediate shortage of affordable housing in Cardiff has been agreed by the Council’s Cabinet.

As part of the scheme up to 200 pre-fabricated, one to three-bed modular flats could now be temporarily installed on the former Gasworks site at Ferry Road, Grangetown, and a number of vacant buildings containing 25, fully-furnished, one, two, and three-bed serviced apartments, and one four-bedroom house, could also be brought under council ownership.

Currently the council already has 48 modular, de-mountable flats on the brownfield Gasworks site, which are housing 29 families in energy-efficient flats. Similar modular flats run by the council in Crofts Street won awards at the Wales Constructing Excellence Awards.

The local authority already has plans to build 500 affordable homes on the Gasworks site, including council houses. In the meantime, while it waits for construction works to begin and for the permanent homes to become available, it will expand the use of modular flats on the site to accommodate more families in good quality, temporary housing.

Welsh Government has confirmed its financial support for both schemes and will grant fund around 50% of the costs involved.

Working with its Cardiff Living partner – Wates Residential – the council will now look to bring 200 more de-mountable homes to the site to help people looking for housing; and to purchase the serviced apartments.

At its meeting on Thursday, July 14, the council’s Cabinet discussed a report which detailed the extent of the housing problem in Cardiff. The report showed there are around 8,000 applicants on the council’s housing waiting list and 1,400 homeless families and individuals living in temporary accommodation. It also noted the cost-of-living crisis will likely add more pressure as people struggle with their bills.

Cllr Lynda Thorne, the Cabinet member for housing and communities, said: “The housing issues we are seeing in Cardiff are part of a wider malaise affecting councils all over Wales and the UK. Here in Cardiff, the council is proud of its housing development programme which is seeing us deliver 4,000 new high-quality, energy-efficient homes across the city. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that we must take every opportunity we can to find immediate solutions. It takes time to plan and build homes so we are looking at ways in which we can make a difference now.

“We have come up with a scheme which could see brownfield land in council control; land which has been set aside for a 500-affordable-home development which we are bringing forward, used for temporary housing while we wait for building works to begin.

“Then once the permanent council homes begin to open on site we can move the de-mountables to other areas of the city where they can continue to house families who need a home. These demountable flats have a guaranteed 60-year lifespan so we know they can act as good, much-needed, temporary accommodation for years to come

“There’s currently a real lack of private, affordable rented accommodation in the city and housing association and council housing stock is already oversubscribed. In addition, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) – the rate at which housing benefit can be paid – has not kept pace with market rents, creating another problem for families. Rents on two-bedroom properties, for example, are on average £200 a month more than the LHA rate rising to £450 a month on four-bedroom homes.”

The temporary scheme would comprise a mixture of one-, two- and three-bedroom family flats. The first units could be installed within 15 weeks and the entire project would be completed before next April with around 50% of the costs covered by a Welsh Government grant. All units are demountable and have a 60-year lifespan. The furnished, serviced apartments could be used by families as soon as the council secures them.

At the meeting, Cabinet members approved the purchase of the 25 serviced apartments, the four-bed house, and agreed to go ahead with the use of the Gasworks site as a site for temporary family accommodation, subject to financial and legal advice.

Said Cllr Thorne: “With the help of the Welsh Government, we are taking an innovative approach to tackling the housing issues which all local authorities are facing, providing sustainable, affordable housing that will benefit people in the city for years to come.”

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “We want everyone to have access to a good-quality and affordable home. I am pleased we can support Cardiff Council, which is offering a sustainable solution to the pressing challenge of providing affordable housing in the capital.

“We are committed to building 20,000 new low carbon homes for rent in the social sector over this Senedd term. We will continue to work with local authorities and partners across Wales to bring forward innovative solutions to local housing pressures.”