A NEW housing policy is being considered by Torfaen council as the number of people on housing waiting lists continues to rise.

Affordable housing remains the biggest challenge to the council’s housing sector, with 2,544 people currently registered with the social housing register Homeseeker.

The service, run by the council and registered social landlords (RSLs) within the borough, receives 58 new applications a week.

Cabinet members could approve a draft local housing strategy (LHS), which will run until 2021, next week.

The cabinet report says an effectively delivered LHS is “vital” and will lead to “more sustainable” housing options for residents and communities.

Improving the private rented sector has been earmarked as a priority by the council.

With average house prices in Torfaen being around £130,000, many residents are turning to the private renting.

But only 8.5 per cent of homes in the borough are offered for private rent, making it unaffordable for many households.

The average house price is also five times higher than local average earnings, which has had a knock-on effect on first-buyers.

There are 375 first-time buyers currently waiting for housing via Help2Own Plus, the council’s low-cost home ownership scheme.

There has also been increasing demand for homelessness assistance, with the report saying that austerity measures and welfare benefits reform are increasing the risk of homelessness.

In 2017/18, 212 households were provided with financial assistance by the council’s housing financial inclusion team.

Councillor David Daniels, executive member for communities, housing and anti-poverty, said: “Housing is one of the most fundamental requirements of every household and demand for help and assistance in Torfaen has continued to increase in recent years.

“Despite the challenges that are being faced by the housing sector, Torfaen remains positive and is determined to adopt a proactive and innovative approach to meeting housing need.”

Concerns have been raised about the quality and standard of existing homes, with some private sector properties in the north of the borough in need of “significant investment”.

Despite more than £155 million being invested by RSLs to reach national housing quality standards, funding for making energy efficient improvements to homes has fallen.

In 2017, the Welsh Government scrapped a grant which was used for the work and, while the council funded the work in 2017/18, the assistance has now been stopped.

The report says: “As a result, there is currently no funding available to assist private sector home owners who are struggling to maintain their own homes and facing fuel poverty.”

The cabinet meeting will discuss the draft LHS on June 5.