Huge numbers forced into social housing

“SHOCKING” numbers of people are facing long waits for social housing because they cannot afford to get on the property ladder, new figures reveal.There are now at least 13,000 people on waiting lists for council or housing association homes with local authorities in the county.

By John Howard

“SHOCKING” numbers of people are facing long waits for social housing because they cannot afford to get on the property ladder, new figures reveal.

There are now at least 13,000 people on waiting lists for council or housing association homes with local authorities in the county.

In the Ipswich area there are 4,454, mid Suffolk 1,500, in Babergh 1,922, St Edmundsbury 3,104, and in Waveney 2,144. Figures for Forest Heath and Suffolk Coastal district councils were not available yesterday.


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Last night Louise Wilby, a rural housing expert with countryside organisation Suffolk Acre, voiced her concern and called for action.

She said: “House prices have gone up ridiculously and people have to be on quite big salaries nowadays even to get a step on the ladder.

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“People are looking for affordable housing these days who would not have needed to a few years ago.

“There are also relationship breakdowns and people starting up, more single households these days.

“Some district councils are wanting developers to build more social housing as part of their planning permission (to build homes for the private sector).

“There are real problems everywhere, some villages have a lot of second homes, and that helps put the prices up. I am shocked at the level of need.''

The figures also show hundreds of people in social housing need a larger home to meet their families.

In mid Suffolk about 400 people are looking to transfer to a different size property, 685 in St Edmundsbury, 1,149 in Ipswich and 266 in Babergh.

The news comes as one couple and their three children look to move from their overcrowded home in Woolpit near Stowmarket.

The Squirrell family are living in a two-bedroom housing association property and Mid Suffolk District Council is unable to say when they can move them.

In June last year the family's third child was born and the district council says their situation is not unusual.

The district council is offering tenants £1,000 grants to encourage them to move from two and three bedroom homes to smaller properties, to free up more family size homes.

Karen Squirrell, who lives in Cowfair, Woolpit, said: “It's very crowded, it's hard for us. Our biggest concern is our one-year-old, Oren, who needs to go into a bed and there is no room for one, except in the hallway.''

Karen and her 29-year-old husband Wayne and their sons Zachary, eight, Tobias, four, and Oren, 14 months, all have to live in their two bedroom housing association home.

The family have been asking for a larger home for 18 months and Mid Suffolk District Council is still unable to give them a moving date.

Housewife Mrs Squirrell, 30, said: “It's not fair. We want to stay in the village, or nearby, we have been here ten years and become involved with the village, serving on various committees.

“We don't mind moving to lots of villages around and about, as long as we are not too far away. But there are hundreds of people on the list at mid Suffolk.

“I phone every week, the council sympathise, but say I have to be patient, there are not the houses.”

Martin King, public sector housing manager at Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “The Squirrell family's third child has made the situation more difficult for them and we have been unable to offer them anything else.

“The family have said they would accept a reasonable spread of villages and I expect them to be rehoused in the not too distant future, but I cannot give an estimate of how long.

“We need more council houses, but any local authority will tell you that, with a few exceptions. The Squirrell family's case is not unusual.

“There are single people in three bedroom houses, elderly people whose families have grown up and moved away and they have a secure tenancy. We can't oblige them to move.

“We have 30 £1,000 grants to encourage tenants to move from two and three bedroom properties to smaller properties to free up family homes and used them all last year and could have used more. There is genuine need in Suffolk and a real shortage of homes.''

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