A HOUSING ‘emergency’ in Wales means people are living in mouldy and damp homes which they cannot afford to heat and some are cutting back on food just to keep a roof over their heads. 

Those are the findings of housing charity Shelter Cymru which says problems range from affordability, for both homeowners and tenants, to the condition of the nation’s housing stock. 

With housing problems hitting those on the lowest incomes hardest Shelter Cymru says people from ethnic minority groups, those with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community and people with other protected characteristics are among the worst affected. 

Research by Shelter Cymru, based on responses to a housing survey carried out, across Britain, on behalf of Shelter suggests more than a million children and adults in Wales are living in unsafe or unaffordable housing. 

One in three, or 34 per cent, of those in Wales who responded to the survey have been impacted by what the charity calls the housing emergency while it estimates some 75,000 people, or three per cent of adults, experienced discrimination when trying to find their current home and felt it was because of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or disability. 

Ruth Power, chief executive of Shelter Cymru, said: “Our research shows the scale and seriousness of the housing emergency in Wales and shows that urgent action is needed.” 

Among the people Shelter Cymru has supported are Merlin, from Newport, who found himself facing eviction just days before his partner was due to give birth when he provided his landlord with a list of problems after being asked to do so. 

He said: “When we moved in to our flat during the pandemic we faced at least 54 problems either with maintenance or repairs needing to be done in that time. The noise from the upstairs flat was intolerable at times when we first moved in. The carpet was filthy dirty, but the landlord wouldn’t clean it. There was water leaking in through the ceiling in our front room, the oven was broken, there was a mouse hole in the bathroom, and the list continued.  

“Two days after responding to a request from the landlord for a full list of the problems we were experiencing at the flat, we were told to leave.  This is simply the most blatant case of potential revenge eviction I think it could be possible to find, and we are sickened to our stomach and I feared that the stress on my girlfriend would affect the birth of our unborn child. I just think it’s outrageous that this is legal and revenge evictions like this are allowed to happen.” 

Among the findings of the survey are: 

∙         Almost one in 10 people (9 per cent)- equivalent to an estimated over a quarter of a million people (283,000) - have had to cut spending on household essentials like food or heating in order to afford rent or mortgage payments. 

∙         One in six (16 per cent) – equivalent to an estimated half a million people (504, 000) – say they cannot keep their home warm in winter. 

∙         Over one in 10 (13 per cent) – equivalent to an almost half a million people (409,000) – are living in homes that are not structurally sound or have hazards such as faulty wiring or fire risks.  

∙         Just over one in four (26 per cent) – equivalent to an estimated 819,000 people - are living in homes with significant damp, mould or condensation problems. 

∙         One in 10 people – equivalent to an estimated 315,000 people – say their current housing situation is harming their mental health, or their family’s mental health. 

Shelter Cymru said it welcomes the Welsh Government’s commitment to what it calls “build back better and fairer” in the wake of the pandemic and has called for at least 20,000 new, high quality social homes to be built. 

At the Senedd election Labour promised to build 20,000 new homes for social rent over the next five year Senedd term. 

READ MORE: 

Call for Welsh Government to boost social housing stock

Home should be at heart of the next Welsh Government's economic strategy

Llyn housing project halted over 'harmful impact' on Welsh language

Shelter Cymru also wants local and national government to help the thousands of people priced out of renting and buying and ensure families pushed into homelessness are not trapped in temporary accommodation. It also says it should be ensured that no-one in Wales is forced to sleep on the streets. 

Its chief executive said: “This research highlights the challenges that so many people in Wales have faced during the pandemic. But unfortunately these challenges are not new – they are longstanding problems that need bold and ambitious action to solve. 

“Good homes are the foundation of all of our lives. They let people go to work every day, without worrying about what they’ll come home to. They let children thrive in school.  They give us the comfort, safety and security that is vital to healthy, happy and productive lives.” 

Shelter commissioned YouGov to conduct an online survey among 13,268 adults, aged 18 and over, in Great Britain, to ask them about their home and housing experiences, of which 668 were from Wales.  4,410 of the respondents were experiencing the housing emergency, of which 218 were from Wales. The survey was conducted between April 6 and 14 and the figures have been weighted to be representative of all adults.