Region faces homelessness problem

HIGH house prices for first time buyers have been blamed for alarming levels of homelessness in Suffolk and Essex.Figures released today show that there are more than 8,500 families living in temporary accommodation in East Anglia, including 8,873 children.

HIGH house prices for first time buyers have been blamed for alarming levels of homelessness in Suffolk and Essex.

Figures released today show that there are more than 8,500 families living in temporary accommodation in East Anglia, including 8,873 children.

And they also reveal there are often greater concentrations of homeless families living in some of the area's most desirable property hotspots where prices are high.

According to the figures, from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for the final quarter of 2004, there are 198 people living in temporary housing in Ipswich, 148 in Waveney and 81 in Suffolk Coastal District.


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This compares to just 38 in Babergh, 15 in Forest Heath, four in Mid Suffolk and three in St Edmundsbury.

Homelessness charity Shelter said that in the same period house prices in East Anglia have jumped 150% to an average price of £174,947, highlighting the contrast between the increase in property wealth and increasing homelessness.

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Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural issues charity Suffolk ACRE, said that although he was unaware that high house prices were having such an affect, the figures were worrying.

“High house prices are not necessarily the first factors I would think of that would lead to people in temporary accommodation,” he said.

“But obviously if that is the case it is something that everyone who is associated with affordable housing will have to take into consideration.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Suffolk Coastal contested their figures, saying that the district had 79 people in temporary accommodation, of which eight were in bed a breakfasts and the rest were in homes.

He added: “One of the council's main objectives is to encourage and improve provisions and access for affordable housing to take account of existing and future needs.

“We recognise that there is a growing need for this type of accomodation and we are implementing planning processes to try and reflect this.”

In Essex, Colchester has 410 households in temporary accommodation, Tendring 349, Chelmsford 142 and Braintree 98.

Andrew Murray, head of housing services for Colchester Borough Council, said: “Comparing homelessness performance, homeless households housed at Colchester showed a 38% increase to this time last year.

“Importantly there are no families with children in bed and breakfast accommodation.

“Whilst we continue to use a range of temporary accommodation - our own stock, housing association stock, supported housing projects, private rented stock, and hostel accommodation to meet the need - equally important is the need for an increase in the supply of affordable housing.

“Although 2004/5 indicates our most successful year of 140 new units of affordable housing, our annual need is around 550.

“Feedback from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister states 'Colchester's homelessness strategy is one of the best in the country, showing remarkable interventions in the private sector.'”

A spokesman for Tendring District Council added: “Tendring is a an area with a low supply of affordable housing and high levels of housing need including from homeless families.

“Extensive use is made of temporary accommodation to provide shelter for homeless families but minimal use is made of bed and breakfast accommodation.

“The council is achieving the Government's target to limit the number of families in bed and breakfast and the length of time that they stay there.

“Homelessness remains a high priority for the council and although the levels remain high, the council has so far in 2004/05 reduced the average number of families placed in temporary accommodation by 6.7% compared to 2003/04.”

Adam Sampson, Director of Shelter, urged people in the region to register their protest about the situation as part of the charity's Million Children Campaign, asking the government to end bad housing for the next generation of children.

He said: “This Dickensian picture of suffering for homeless children is in stark contrast to the cosy festivities that most of us can look forward to this Christmas.

“While many people benefit from soaring house prices, the dark side of the boom spreads unnoticed.

“That's why Shelter's Million Children Campaign is calling on members of the public to register their protest to help persuade government to commit to ending bad housing for the next generation of children.”

For more information visit www.shelter.org.uk/signup

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