Section 21: Twelve households sought temporary accommodation every day last year

A Sharp End freedom of information request found councils spent at least £63million on temporary accommodation costs last year. Credit: Sharp End

By Katherine Clementine

More than 12 households sought temporary accommodation after being given an eviction notice every day last year in Wales, latest figures show.

At least 4,500 households presented themselves to council housing teams after being issued with a Section 21 notice in 2022.

A Sharp End freedom of information request found councils spent at least £63million on temporary accommodation costs last year.

Of all councils in Wales, Powys Council housed the most people after being given a Section 21 notice - a total of 617 in 2022.

Wales is experiencing record demand for housing as prices are pushed up.

What is a Section 21?

This is the most common type of notice landlords give to end a tenancy and the 'easiest' way for landlords to gain back possession of their property.

It's a procedure set out in Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and applies to assured shorthold tenancies only - the most common tenancy agreement.

Landlords are not required to provide tenants with the reason for eviction under Section 21.

Last year, ITV Wales spoke to a distraught family who had been given a Section 21 notice - but could no longer afford to privately rent as monthly asking prices had significantly risen.

They were not alone - at the same time, a couple who devote their spare time to a local food bank were forced out of their family home after being issued a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice.

Those living in areas with high numbers of second or holiday homes also struggled to find new accommodation after being given a Section 21 notice.

An 85-year-old woman who thought she would live out her days in her "perfect" rental home faced eviction and a community carer who sees empty second homes on her daily rounds faced homelessness.

Of those who provided data, the highest number of Section 21s given in 2022 were:

Powys - 617Cardiff - 564Carmarthenshire - 520Pembrokeshire - 436Flintshire - 422

Once presenting to a council as homeless, the amount of time spent in temporary accommodation varied across Wales.

The highest average stay in temporary accommodation across Wales was in Torfaen, where households stayed 10 months on average.

Temporary accommodation can be provided by local authorities in a variety of ways, including B&Bs, council properties, hotels or HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy).

Average length of stay in temporary accommodation in 2022:

Torfaen - 10 months/approx 300 daysMerthyr Tydfil - approx 242 daysPowys - 235 daysAnglesey - 182 daysGwynedd - 178 days

Newport Council had the longest stayer in temporary accommodation in the whole of Wales for 2022. One household had been under local authority provision for 1,824 days - nearly five years.

A spokesperson for Newport City Council said the local authority is "dealing with an unprecedented demand" for both temporary and long-term housing.

"The availability of accommodation is simply not keeping pace with demand.

“During the pandemic, there was an increase in the number of households presenting as homeless and this has continued because of the current financial crisis. Those who find themselves at risk of homelessness or homeless will not be able to move straight into long-term housing and could face having to live in temporary accommodation for a significant period.

“Private rented housing is diminishing and when landlords decide to sell a property, this can mean their tenants are faced with homelessness. When these factors are combined with the cost-of-living challenges, it is clear the city – like many other areas around the country – is facing a housing crisis that has not been experienced for many decades.”

Highest staying households in temporary accommodation in 2022:

Newport - 1,824 daysCardiff - 1,448Neath Port Talbot - 1,315Carmarthenshire - 1,147Caerphilly - 1,015

Cllr Andrea Lewis, the WLGA's (Welsh Local Government Association) housing lead says temporary accommodation is a "major issue" right now.

She said: "During the pandemic until December last year councils supported over 31,000 households into temporary accommodation - so that paints the picture of the scale we're dealing with.

"It is very much a collaborative partnership effort with housing associations and the third sector so it is very much working across agencies to tackle this.

"It isn't easy and I know people on the frontline are exhausted and things aren't getting any easier with the cost of living crisis. I do pay tribute to those on the front line."

But those in temporary accommodation need permanent homes to move to, which the WLGA says there simply aren't enough of.

Cllr Lewis said: "We would rather see people with a roof over their head as opposed to living on the streets or sofa surfing. Part of that picture has to be investing in new builds and taking on some acquisitions. Across Wales, authorities are buying back the council right to buy properties that we lost many decades ago. We're trying to reinforce our housing stock across Wales but it is an immense challenge.

"We're very fortunate in Wales that we've got a good working relationship with Welsh Government and ministers are really accessible and Julie James (Minister for Climate Change and Housing) absolutely gets the problem and the challenge. It's not just councils that should be at the forefront of building new homes - we can't ignore private developers and housing associations playing an integral part in delivering much more affordable and much-needed homes.

"Social landlords absolutely at the forefront of dealing with this. In North Wales, their allocations are 50% towards the temporary accommodation lists."

Cllr Lewis fears that things are going to get worse before they get better.

She added: "We'll see more people falling into financial hardship. We keep asking UK Government to address the deficit of Local Housing Allowance, which does not match people's rents."

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We recognise the pressures of rising rents and the Government is projected to spend £28.5 billion supporting renters with housing costs in 2022/23.

"We have protected the most vulnerable by increasing Local Housing Allowance beyond inflation and we are maintaining that boost – keeping support for private renters above pre-pandemic levels."

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