Posted: Mon 3rd Jul 2023

Vacant town centre building could help with area’s housing crisis says MS /
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jul 3rd, 2023

A vacant five-storey Welsh Government building in Caernarfon could “go some way” towards tackling Gwynedd’s “homelessness crisis”, it has been suggested.
Arfon MS Siân Gwenllian raised the idea after shocking homelessness figures for the area were highlighted at a Cyngor Gwynedd meeting last week.
The town centre Welsh Government offices in Penrallt have lain empty for several years – but could potentially provide town centre homes for at least 30 people, Mrs Gwenllian said.
The building went up for sale for £1m last year.
In an intervention on the floor of the Senedd, Mrs Gwenllian, who represents the town of Caernarfon as part of her constituency, suggested using the vacant building to help alleviate the area’s chronic housing shortage.
The Welsh Government have said they are keen for the site to include affordable homes when redeveloped.
Mrs Gwenllian said: “The Government offices in Penrallt have been empty for two years, and the council along with a local housing association are eager to use the building to provide temporary accommodation to people who present themselves as homeless.
“In May alone, 107 people presented as homeless in Gwynedd.
“The county spends £6 million on unsuitable living arrangements, because there is insufficient provision of temporary accommodation.
“There would be room for more than 30 people in Penrallt, a site that is right in the centre of the town of Caernarfon.
“This week I made the point to Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance and Local Government that in terms of making effective use of public resources that it would make sense to move forward with this scheme.
In her response, Rebecca Evans stated that the Welsh Government wished to see redevelopment of the site delivering affordable housing to tackle the current housing crisis in the area.
“We are very much seeking to ensure that any redevelopment of the site does deliver new and affordable housing to alleviate the current housing pressures in the area,” the Minister for Finance and Local Government replied.
“We are very aware of the significant negative impacts that empty buildings do have on the local environment, and especially so in our town centres.”
She also hoped a meeting arranged between senior officials of the Welsh Government and Dafydd Gibbard, Chief Executive of Gwynedd Council, his officers would be “an opportunity” to make some progress and “agree a way forward”.
According to a Cyngor Gwynedd housing report presented to its cabinet, and highlighted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, last week, homelessness in the county had seen an “astonishing rise”.
A raft of shocking figures were presented by cabinet member for housing, Councillor Craig ab Iago.
The town was now in the midst of a “housing crisis” and that “massive pressure” was being put on the housing department, he said.
He had told last Tuesday’s (June 13) meeting that “every hour and a half someone presents as homeless”.
The number of people without homes had risen risen by 48% between 2019-20 and 2021-22.
The region currently had 652 homeless people, with 36 children in bed and breakfast accommodation and 62 children living in temporary housing.
His report also revealed the statistic that 6,997 children in Gwynedd were now “living in poverty”.
More than 3,000 people were waiting for social housing, and 65% of Gwynedd residents, in 2020 could not afford to buy a home.
He added that more than 40% of the region’s housing stock on the market in 2019 had also gone to second home buyers – which had contributed to the problem.
Around 15% of the area’s housing stock was being “used as bolt holes or investment properties – rather than homes,” he said. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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