The first email I got said: "I have trawled the WOL today but cannot find any story about all the lovely cabins being erected in Grangetown by Ikea. There is a video on TikTok going around saying these are for possibly over 800 migrants ."

I sent it on to a colleague and asked what they knew, fairly confidently stating "there are not 800 migrants moving to Grangetown" but asking what we knew about the site in the south of Cardiff. I was sent a link back to the latest planning story we'd run about the former gasworks site where it is made patently clear who the homes are for and didn't give it a huge amount of thought. In fact a few days later I went to Ikea and barely gave the scheme a second look despite it being right in front of me.

And then I saw more and more about it. "What is being built by Ikea?" was a Reddit thread I spotted. Another says it is an "asylum seeker city" or "migrant village". One post on a Facebook page I follow was a photo made by the poster calling it: "Drakeford's final nail in the coffin. Asylum seeker city being built next to Ikea Cardiff Bay".

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I don't make a habit of getting involved in social media threads but made an exception for this and clicked. Underneath it someone asked: "Is there an official source? Such as planning permission?"

Someone did indeed share a planning application but it was for a scheme in the Vale of Glamorgan (not Cardiff) specifically for Ukrainian refugees (not homeless people). It is the wrong scheme, in the wrong county, for the wrong people.

The responses varied but were united in one thing – many actually supported this scheme if they knew anything about it. Examples of what was posted also included: "Time this country looked after its own first" and: "What about all our homeless people on the streets?".

The former gasworks site near Ikea has been subject of redevelopment talk for a number of years and we've documented the various stages a number of times from the first plans to the planning permission and the first look at the modular homes. The first buildings to appear on this otherwise-disused piece of land next to Ikea were 24 three-bed apartments, 12 two-bed apartments, 12 one-bed apartments, and four bungalows. Called Hafan – the Welsh for haven – they were built as a response to the pandemic. In the pandemic all homeless people were given a place to stay and the Welsh Government issued a directive to councils they had to ensure homeless people weren't forced to return to the streets afterwards.

A story for another time is the fact it's patently obvious that ambition has failed because there are people back on the streets across the capital and Wales but it doesn't detract from the simple fact that the strain on homelessness services in the city's capital is growing. A record number of people and families are seeking help with housing, which the council can't match.

There are a number of reasons officials will quote when you ask for details. The most significant factor is a lack of affordable accommodation in the private rented sector and what is available is too expensive. The average private rent in Cardiff is £200 higher than the Welsh average and well above the Local Housing Allowance, making it unaffordable for many. A number of private landlords are leaving the market due to taxation changes, mortgage interest rate rises, and changes in legislation. As of December 2023 there had been a 122% increase in eviction notices in Cardiff issued from landlords selling their property in 2022-23 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Combine the lack of private rented accommodation with an increase in demand for accommodation in Cardiff, where people come to seek work and to study, alongside reduced numbers of people being able to afford to buy their own home and it is nothing short of a crisis. The council say that most people presenting to its homelessness teams are due to the loss of private sector renting but there has been a 46% rise in people coming to them saying they are homeless compared to 2019. The pandemic continues to affect all public services and they have had to turn back to emergency accommodation like hotels to house people again.

We've seen things like a Toys R Us site turned into emergency – and totally unsuitable – accommodation. While most of us would think that having a roof, any roof, over someone's head on a cold winter night the images from inside were appalling and not fit for anyone.

So, back in Grangetown. Eventually the council want the gasworks site to have around 500 homes on it – a mix of private homes and council housing. As permanent homes are built at the site, in phases, these modular homes can be dismantled and reused at other locations in the city in response to housing need.

As well as the Hafan development the council is creating another 155 properties on the same site called the Ffordd y Rhaffu development. So far 65 of the 155 homes have been handed over to the council.

But the narrative around the properties, which the council maintain are for people and families facing homelessness, has been picked up by a number of online groups who are attending the site and filming residents. Of those visiting the site to report on a "massive migrant homeless complex" include a commentator who had travelled to Cardiff seemingly from Yorkshire to film. Her video shows a charity unloading second-hand furniture into a property and a resident coming out of her property to address the YouTuber, telling her the attendance of people at the site filming is causing her child distress. In a very reasoned way the resident tries to explain who is actually living at the site. She tells them she didn't want to be homeless and couldn't believe she, and her daughter, had found herself at Ffordd y Rhaffu.

The people living at this site are now having to get used to YouTubers or social media activists walking round their homes. To reiterate: the people living at this site are themselves vulnerable.

The video streamers walk round the site in some sort of voyeuristic human safari. "I haven't seen a single migrant yet," says one, 20 minutes in, as if a person moving from overseas will have a giant arrow over their head. They stick their phones against the windows and gawp: "Look at the size of that kitchen".

I'm intrigued what they would be happy to see. What does an archetypal homeless person look like? Can they only be white? Should they be carrying a sleeping bag and tent? Be sporting matted hair? Anyone who has ever worked with the homeless community can tell you the reason is never simply that "they do not have a home". There is a complex picture of combined reasons. Some of those who have presented to the council as homeless may be white or may not, they may be men or women, they may be single, families, gay or straight.

But this is just the latest example of a rumour starting online and growing. What is circulating on the internet about homes being built in this city suburb is another example of the rumour mill getting out of control and right-wing commentators have hijacked this scheme to promote their own views.

There are reportedly issues with the standard of the accommodation and there are many many issues with the way homeless provision is provided in Wales. But those writing beneath the line have most definitely got the wrong end of the stick.

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