‘Having a home should be a right, not a privilege’

A row of terraced houses in Cardiff, Wales.

Taff Housing CEO Helen White explains how the Welsh Government should tackle homelessness across the capital city.

Following the announcement from the Welsh Government to inject an additional £13m to the housing support grant budget for 2024/25, Helen White, CEO of Cardiff housing and support provider, Taff Housing discusses why and how this additional investment will be so crucial for sustaining the current support services in place and making changes to help to address the rising issue of homelessness across the capital.

Helen explains, ‘Having a roof over your head should be a right, not a privilege. The £210 million invested in homeless prevention by the Welsh Government will go a long way to making a change for the people most vulnerable, but only as long as it is invested in the right provisions and services. 

Wales is amid a housing crisis, with a substantial lack of affordable homes for people on low income. In addition, the financial pressures of managing escalating household bills and increased food and fuel costs, people are feeling the pressure. This is resulting in an unprecedented number of people being plunged into considerable debt and facing the threat of being forced out of their homes.  

‘The largest misconception when we say ‘homeless’ is that people believe this means sleeping rough. However, this often means people are ‘sofa-surfing’, staying in temporary accommodation, which many cases are a hotel room, or living in their car.’

It has been recently reported from the Welsh Government that the numbers of households assessed as homeless increased by 7% from 2022 to 2023 with almost 12.5k households finding themselves in this situation. There was also a 25% increase in households identified as unintentionally homeless and in priority need, with over 5k households falling into this category.  Many of these people are already being supported by Housing Associations across Wales. The largest misconception when we say ‘homeless’ is that people believe this means sleeping rough. However, this often means people are ‘sofa-surfing’, staying in temporary accommodation, which many cases are a hotel room, or living in their car.’

Cardiff-based Taff Housing has reported experiencing a huge rise in demand from Cardiff Council for homes for people who are homeless and currently in temporary accommodation, as well as an increase this year in tenants asking for advice on the cost-of-living crisis, emergency food and fuel vouchers and support with energy providers.’

CEO Helen White discusses how Taff is helping to address the problem and what they would like to see the Welsh Government do about solving the rising problem of homelessness, following its white paper.  

As a housing association, we have a responsibility to support our tenants as best we can, of course we want to provide a safe, warm home but we also want to provide wellbeing advice alongside practical guidance on how to juggle incoming and outgoing costs.  

‘This is why we have developed an all year-round, in-house Money Advice service, offering advice and guidance on managing debt, rent, benefits, as well as signposting people to the additional funding sources available. And we have experienced an exceptional need for this service over the past 12 months. So far in 2023/24 our Community Inclusion Coaches have opened 275 support cases, and our money advisor has opened over 140 money advice cases. There has also been a big increase in tenants coming to us for emergency food and fuel vouchers.  

Gofod i drafod, dadlau, ac ymchwilio.
Cefnogwch brif felin drafod annibynnol Cymru.


A key concern of ours is the substantial lack of suitable homes and we believe that this should be a focus for the investment of funds. Hundreds of new homes are being developed across Cardiff, particularly in the north of the city, but very few meet the needs of the people who are most vulnerable. Many of the homes are too expensive for people on a low income and are unsuitable for those requiring specialist support due to poor physical and mental health. We recognise increasing the number of affordable homes quickly is a priority for the Welsh Government, and as an organisation, we are trying to address the housing shortage by improving both existing properties, as well as developing new affordable homes for families and single people. However, the process to achieve planning permission can be very lengthy, complicated, and time-consuming, with sometimes no positive outcomes. If the planning process could also be streamlined, more housing associations could support the council in providing more affordable homes.  

We need to ensure the system reaches people before they are at crisis point.

Aside from the homes themselves, we would like to see the whole support process itself addressed and improved. The current referral process is too long and complicated, and due to the priority need test, often fails to capture people who are vulnerable to becoming homeless and in need of support to prevent them from becoming homeless. Rather it deals with people who are already homeless.  We need to ensure the system reaches people before they are at crisis point. I therefore feel the priority need test should be removed to capture those vulnerable and at risk of becoming homeless.  

Furthermore, the support offered to people in priority need currently only stands at 56 days. I believe that this is far too short for many people to improve their situation and regain financial independence, as well as mental and physical wellbeing. I think this needs to be extended to at least six months. 

 Finally, we have experienced an increase in demand and number of referrals from Cardiff Council for our supported accommodation for young people and young parents. Our feeling is that there just aren’t currently sufficient services for young people. Taff supports many 17-year-olds who have outgrown the system for children, do not meet the criteria for young adult support but are extremely vulnerable. I know there is discussion about allowing a 16-17-year-old to take on a supported rental agreement, which we think under the right circumstances and with the right support from social services, could be a great way of bridging the gap for this group of vulnerable people.  

At the end of the day, the resolution to the problem of homelessness across Wales is not straightforward. It is very complex, and there is no simple answer.  However, having somewhere to call home is something that everyone deserves to have, and we are passionate about making that happen. We will be campaigning for what we believe needs addressing and will endeavour to be part of the conversation in helping to shape the future changes to support vulnerable people from becoming homeless.’ 

Wales-based Taff Housing owns and manages over 1500 homes across Cardiff, providing 4000 people with somewhere to call home. The housing association also manages several supported accommodation projects for young people, young mums, older BAME individuals and those with more complex, specialist needs. It also offers tenants financial support and money advice and floating tenancy support services in the community where they help people to access education, training, and employment, as well as physical and mental health services to help prevent the threat of homelessness.  

For more information visit www.taffhousing.co.uk 

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Helen White is CEO of Taff Housing

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