Everyone should have a home. Somewhere to call their own, where they can relax, spend time with family and friends and feel secure. It is a basic human need and, I believe, a human right.
Unfortunately, in Monmouthshire, as across the UK, spiralling house prices have pushed buying a home out of reach for the majority of young people on average wages. The rise in interest rates puts pressure on homeowners and landlords with mortgages, and private rentals are in short supply. Anyone can become homeless, due to relationship breakdown, health or financial problems, fire or flooding. It is certainly not a lifestyle choice!
One of the biggest factors driving people into homelessness is the failure of the Conservative government to increase housing allowances in the benefit system to match even the lowest local private rents. There are almost no private lets affordable to a single parent or someone unable to work in Monmouthshire.
As the population changes, we also need more smaller properties, net zero carbon homes easy to adapt for disability and within walking distance of amenities, as well as more social housing for rent. Our replacement Local Development Plan will set out the planning rules and site allocations to achieve this over the next decade.
Our top priority is to get families with children and homeless young people into suitable homes as quickly as possible.
That is why we are working hard to bring empty properties back into use, and buying properties for temporary housing as well as working with housing associations to build more social rented homes where land is available. I am proud that in Wales we have kept up the efforts, rolled out during the pandemic, to leave no one on the street. The costs are high but it is saving lives.
And in Monmouthshire the number of people in Bed and Breakfast accommodation has more than halved since we took office and there are now fewer than 50 in this situation. We have been able to move families into more suitable temporary accommodation or find them a permanent home. Fewer people have also become homeless in Monmouthshire this year than last, in part due to our increased early prevention work.
I also pay tribute to those who rally round to help and to work with us. Charities and volunteers supply goods and furniture to help make a home, and a growing number of landlords have joined our Monmouthshire Lettings scheme. Thank you to them all.