Homelessness in Wales at five-year high prompts Shelter Cymru warning

Image caption Shelter Cymru predicts more people will struggle to meet their rent and mortgage payments

A charity has called for affordable homes to be built in Wales as figures show homelessness at a five-year high.

From July to September, 1,845 households in Wales were recognised as homeless, the most since June 2006.

John Puzey, director of Shelter Cymru, said: "It's clear that many families in Wales are facing a very uncertain future this Christmas and the prospect for the New Year looks even bleaker."

The Welsh government said it had a 10 year plan to tackle homelessness.

Cutting back

The charity was responding to the latest statistics from the Welsh government, which reported a 15% increase in the number of households accepted by local authorities as homeless since the third quarter of 2010.

Mr Puzey added that the situation was likely to get worse, as the charity had previously reported that people were cutting back on heating and food to pay their rent or mortgages.

"The continuing impact of the recession, rising living costs and further cuts to housing benefit due to come in over the next few months are likely to drive many more people into situations where they simply cannot manage," he said.

"The cuts to public spending mean that local authorities are going to be under incredible pressure.

"We are now starting to see the use of B&B accommodation increasing, so undermining all the excellent work councils have done over recent years to reduce this.

Mr Puzey said the root of the problem was a long-standing shortage of affordable homes, and called for greater investment to boost the stock available.

"Far from being a luxury, investing in homes provides great value for money, boosting skills, employment, local economic development and strengthening communities," he said.

He added that there was a need to "move quickly" on a Welsh government pledge to get some of Wales's 23,000 privately-owned long term empty properties back into use.

Benefit cuts

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We are very concerned about the rise in homelessness figures, which is linked to continuing economic and housing market pressures.

"UK government policies are contributing to these pressures, and we are very concerned about the forthcoming changes in welfare benefits which are likely to worsen the homelessness trend.

"We are committed to preventing homelessness wherever possible, as set out in our 10 year homelessness plan, and we are supporting this through funding, guidance and legislation.

"We are providing more than £1.4m to local authorities and Shelter Cymru to raise awareness of the changes to housing benefit and to help people cope with cuts to housing benefit over the next two years."

The Welsh government is also inviting responses to a paper published earlier in December by housing minister Huw Lewis setting out the challenges and priorities for housing in Wales, with the possibility of new legislation on the matter.

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