Posted: Sat 12th Sep 2020

Impact of pandemic on Denbighshire revealed in Scrutiny Committee meeting

North Wales news and information

More than  170 households are homeless, housing waiting lists are up a third and rent arrears are more than double the norm because of the economic effects of Covid-19.

The growing struggle some families in Denbighshire are now facing was revealed in a study into housing recovery from the pandemic.

Liz Grieve, head of communities and customer services, told a Partnerships Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday that Denbighshire’s housing list had increased to 1,650 people – up 450 households since May.

It also emerged there were 172 householders in emergency or temporary accommodation – rising from 136 in May.

Rent arrears stood at £632,000, more than double what officers would expect at this time of year and £90,000 more than forecast – with new claims for universal credit a factor in the rise.

She said: “To date around 40 householders have been placed (in new accommodation from temporary or emergency) between Denbighshire county council and our registered social landlord partners – in addition to those 172 households.

“Rent arrears continue to accrue – we are not alarmed yet but there’s a large uptick in people claiming universal credit.”
“Universal credit is very slow to pay,” she added.

The report said the number of council tenant households moving to Universal Credit has increased during lockdown above previous predictions.

The number of council tenants claiming the benefit rose from 544 in March 2020 to 659 in July.

Geoff Davies, Denbighshire council’s lead officer for community housing, said the average rent arrears from universal credit were around £500.

However the council did have the option of having rent elements of the benefit paid directly to it, rather than tenants.
He added: “Some people are really struggling despite our best efforts.”

Ms Grieve also said the authority had suspended its single access route to housing (SARTH) during the pandemic, until at least October.

SARTH means applicants only have to make one application to go on the housing register and not one to each housing provider.
Ms Grieve revealed more than 3,000 support calls had been made by housing officers to vulnerable residents in the county during the pandemic.

Between April and June a partnership with Citizens Advice Denbighshire
saw 186 council tenants given debt advice.

More than 160 of them made income gains totalling £633,000.

By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter



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