Posted: Wed 11th Oct 2023

Redevelopment of Grade II-Listed Building in Pontypool Offers Temporary Accommodation Solution amid Wales’ Housing Crisis /
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 11th, 2023

REDEVELOPING a Grade II-listed building in the centre of Pontypool for temporary accommodation has been hailed as “good news” amid Wales’ housing crisis. 
Plans were released last year to convert the former Pearl House building into small flats with support on site to prevent people from falling into homelessness. 
Cllr David Daniels, the Labour cabinet member for housing on Torfaen Borough Council, told his colleagues: “It’s a good news story amidst a really worrying housing crisis quite frankly.” 
The Labour cabinet has agreed to award a contract to run the building as an “accommodation and assessment hub” to an unnamed bidder. The third sector body will receive £449,514 a year, from the council, to run the building where people who’ve lost their home, or fear they will, can attend and be given advice and potentially accommodation. 
Cllr Daniels said: “I think this is an excellent project and a more sustainable, more effective way of delivering good outcomes for potentially some very complex individuals rather than – not that we do – leaving them to their own devices – they do receive some support – but they will receive 24 hour support so they are more likely to get back on their feet and move on to more sustainable tenancies.” 
He said the intention in providing support and accommodation within Pearl House is an “attempt to catch” people before they become “entrenched rough sleepers”. The building will have 15 units, when plans were released last year it was intended to have 16. 
Simon Rose, the council’s housing manager, said the intention is to help those most in need, with others provided with alternative accommodation. He told councillors: “The best way I can describe Pearl House is, if two individuals came in and there is one space and of them is working full time, and perfectly able to manage independently and not need the support Pearl House offers, we would look to accommodate them in temporary accommodation (elsewhere).” 
He said Pearl House will offer an “in depth assessment” of someone’s support needs and staff will work with them to find longer term accommodation, including taking account of people’s own preferences. 
Mr Rose said: “It’s a way of delivering rapid rehousing model in an environment where there is very limited housing, it’s moving the deckchairs on the ship around.” 
As well as offering help and support on site staff at Pearl House will direct people to other agencies, such as Citizen’s Advice, with much of that done instantly online using technology such as Microsoft Teams rather than giving people appointments to attend another building in several weeks’ time. 
It is intended people will stay at Pearl House for no more than six months but Mr Rose said: “We will try to keep this accommodation very short term, hopefully an average stay of around six weeks.” 
The project will work with other agencies, such as benefits offices, housing associations and charities and Mr Rose said: “It will have a clear partnership approach, it’s not Torfaen-led but by the third sector organisation that has been commissioned which we feel will get better outcomes for individuals.” 
In response to the council’s deputy leader, Cllr Richard Clark, Mr Rose confirmed the council would have readvertised the contract if it didn’t feel the bid from the unnamed body, which was the only one to apply for the contract, could deliver what will be required. The eight year contract, with an option to extend for two years, is due to start on July 1 next year. 
The cabinet was also updated on homelessness locally which Cllr Daniels said “only seems to be worsening in Torfaen and Wales generally.” 
Mr Rose said in the past four or five months nobody in Torfaen has had to be housed in a hotel for more than one or two nights, and at any given time it needs to house around 100 individuals. The council does use shared accommodation such as houses of multiple occupation where people have to share bathrooms and kitchens. 
Cllr Daniels warned the situation on hotel use can change “week to week” due to demand, while Mr Rose said Torfaen’s situation contrasted with Cardiff, where around 240 families are housed in hotels. 
Rough sleepers in Torfaen were described by Mr Rose as “difficult to engage with” but he said the council is making efforts such as offering to buy them shoes or providing them with mobile phones so they can keep in touch with them. 
The council is also increasing its supply of temporary accommodation while it has also redesignated Hales House, in Pontypool, from specific young persons’ accommodation to generic housing for anybody who is homeless, and has commissioned eight beds in Garndiffaith to make up the loss of provision for young people. 
There is also sufficient private rentals available to the council, said Mr Rose, and it has also been able to accommodate refugee families from Ukraine. 
The Local Democracy Reporting Service has asked Torfaen Borough Council the name of the body awarded the contract. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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