Rural Homeless ‘Twice Urban Rate’

Homelessness in rural Wales has risen at almost twice the rate of urban areas over the past three decades, according to a social research charity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the numbers of homeless households in rural areas rose by 300% between 1978 and 2005. In urban areas they rose 160%.

There are concerns housing is becoming less affordable in rural Wales.

The charity has launched a commission to take evidence from experts and the public over the next five months.

The study, being launched in Cardiff, will look at property prices, affordability and availability of social housing outside of the major towns and cities.

The foundation’s report looked at house prices compared to household income and found the “affordability ratio” had risen by 40% in two years.

It said the ratio – the average house price divided by mean household income – rose to 5.92 in 2005, when two years earlier it stood at 4.21.

The charity said the Commission on Rural Housing in Wales will have an “independent insight into the issue of housing need in rural Wales”.

A consultation paper and questionnaire has already been sent to organisations across Wales.

In addition to looking at existing research, the commission will also hold four “evidence sessions” over the next five months to hear from policy experts, officials and the public.

The commission’s chairman Professor Derec Llwyd Morgan, a former vice-chancellor of the Aberystwyth University, said it would consider rural housing to be “everything outside the main cities and towns”.

He said: “Levels of salary are quite low and house prices are quite high.

“If they can’t afford to pay a mortgage, the difficulty of social housing is that it is sparse and very expensive.”

Craig Read and Mary Anne Young from Penycae, near Wrexham, who have an 11-month-old son, were homeless for over a year.

They said they had to stay in a homeless centre before recently being housed through the Wrexham Housing Alliance.

“It was horrible, it really was. Not knowing where you were going to sleep the next night. We did look around but there was just nowhere we could afford,” Mr Reed said.

In June, two housing bodies said Wales was short of around 40,000 affordable homes.

The Home Builders Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru said fewer new homes were being built in Wales than at any time since WWII.

In a statement, Deputy Minister for Housing Jocelyn Davies said the assembly government had made a number of commitments to increase affordable housing.

“There is specific help for first time buyers through our Homebuy programme and in rural communities we will look at broadening the scope and definition of agricultural worker,” she said.

“I am also looking at extending the support for the Rural Housing Enablers, currently jointly funded, who are already in post across rural Wales.”