March 12 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
A desperate shortage of social housing in west Suffolk means there is not even enough available one-bedroom properties to satisfy 1% of those on the waiting list, the EADT can reveal today.
According to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request, only four one-bedroom properties were available from St Edmundsbury Borough Council during its fortnightly bid cycle in October.
However, the authority had 740 people on its register waiting for such accommodation.
For the current cycle, there are five one-bed properties up for allocation, while the figure for those looking for such a property has risen to 782 - more than half the total waiting list.
Last night Anne Gower, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s cabinet member for housing, said the authority had made tackling the issue a priority.
However, she also warned that a growing demand - and a lack of new homes being built - meant there was increasing pressure.
“The pressure on housing supply is becoming more severe as demand continues to increase and fewer new homes are being built,” she said.
“The council has made this a key priority and we are working to stimulate sustainable and desirable development through our housing strategy and the planning process, and to manage individual need through restructured housing service based on localities.
“We are looking at higher opportunities across the public and private sectors so we can advise people who approach us on a full range of options, but the reality is that we will house those in highest need first.”
Of those 782 waiting for accommodation, 120 are in Band A - the highest priority need. The council has let 114 one-bedroom properties over the past year.
The shortage of one-bedroom accommodation has seemingly also been exasperated by the introduction of the government’s housing benefit reforms, commonly referred to as “the bedroom tax”.
Ninety people are deemed to be “under-occupying” - living in properties with extra bedrooms - and looking to be reassigned to one-bedroom accommodation.
Karen Mayhew, chief executive at Havebury Housing Partnership, said: “Welfare reform has had an impact on the increase in the number of people wanting to move, and particularly looking for one and two-bedroom accommodation.
“We have a number of developments underway across Suffolk, which includes building smaller properties to help meet the demand. We are also helping people move through mutual exchanges and reviewing how some of our existing homes could be better used.
“With over 1,500 people on the waiting list in St Edmundsbury, we will continue to work with local developers and partners to create affordable homes for those in need.”