Climate Change Minister Julie James has launched the Ending Homelessness Action Plan, which will encourage private property owners to lease their properties to councils in return for a rent guarantee.
The Minister, who says that when homelessness occurs it should be “rare, brief and unrepeated”, will also announce a new £30m funding pot over five years for local authorities.
Under the Private Rented Sector Leasing Scheme, private property owners will be encouraged to lease their properties to local authorities in return for a rent guarantee and additional funding to improve the condition of their property.
Local authorities can then use these properties to provide homes for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
Tenants will “benefit from the security of long-term tenures” of between five to 20 years and help to maintain their stay in a long-term home, such as mental health support or debt and money management advice.
The Plan has been shaped by the recommendations of the independent expert Homelessness Action Group, reflecting the changes required to prevent homelessness and make the shift to rapid rehousing so that people are in temporary accommodation for the shortest possible time.
The Welsh Government acknowledges that the “causes of homelessness extend well beyond access and availability of affordable homes,” adding that ending homelessness is “a cross-sector, cross-government priority relevant to health, social services, education, criminal justice, community services and our wider economy.”
All this is recognised within the Action Plan, as is the need for wide-reaching legislative and policy reform.
Julie James said: “I want to say thank you again for the extraordinary work of those working in homelessness and housing support services across local authorities, registered social landlords and the third sector. Each and every day they work to help and support those without a home.
“They transform lives, they offer hope and they have undoubtedly saved many lives throughout this pandemic. They should be proud of all they have done and continue to do.
“My priority now is to build on our successes to prevent homelessness and ensure that when it does, it is rare, brief and unrepeated.”
Jon Sparkes, CEO at Crisis, said: “The Welsh Government-led response to the pandemic has not only delivered decisive action to prevent and reduce homelessness during the public health emergency but has laid strong foundations for ensuring the long-lasting, positive impact of the progress made over recent years.
“This plan rightly recognises that the work done to ensure no one is left out of support must continue, as must the joined-up approach across services in ending homelessness as a public health issue.
“It shows how we can put the measures in place to prevent homelessness wherever possible and respond as quickly as possible when people lose their homes. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government, councils, health services and other charities in putting it into action.”
Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, and co-author of new Health Impact Assessment report, ‘No place like home?’, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic, and measures to reduce transmission of the virus, has had many wide-ranging impacts on the population of Wales, and has led to many people spending more time in their homes, highlighting the importance of good quality, affordable and secure housing.
“The need for security in relation to having, and keeping, a home and being surrounded by a safe and consistent home environment, and its impact on both physical and mental health and well-being has long been recognised.
“During times of uncertainty, such as in the Covid-19 pandemic, a home can provide a secure and stable base for individuals and households in order to help them live and work through and ultimately recover from the pandemic and its effects.
“The action plan will be timely for tackling inequalities, particularly those exacerbated by the pandemic.”