21,000 caught in social housing waiting list trap

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Stella Abaogye who has had to turn to friends for accommodation with her children Stella Abaogye who has had to turn to friends for accommodation with her children

Thousands of Bradford families are facing a “housing timebomb”, a hard-hitting report reveals today.

As people struggle to get on the property ladder and the waiting list for social housing grows, more and more families are facing the real prospect of homelessness, the National Housing Federation warns.

The federation’s report, Home Truths 2012, says only one fifth of the new homes the city needs are being built every year.

Homelessness in Bradford has rocketed 47 per cent in the past year alone.

The report shows that nearly 21,000 low-income individuals and families in Bradford were trapped on social housing waiting lists last year.

But the stock of properties managed by the district’s housing associations has actually shrunk by two per cent over the past five years.

Meanwhile, higher earners are stuck in a vicious circle where they cannot afford to save up for a mortgage deposit, while the cost of renting a home grows.

Rob Warm, the federation’s Yorkshire and Humber manager, branded the situation “a tragedy for families across Bradford”.

An out-of-work mother and her two children found themselves sofa-surfing as they spent six months waiting for an affordable home.
Stella Aboagye (above) started looking for a new home in February after her marriage broke down.
Miss Aboagye, 36, said she went to social housing provider Incommunities and asked for a house in the BD8 area, so her daughters Ammanuella, 11, and Sylviane, eight, could stay in their school.
But she said while they waited for a home, she and her children would occasionally find themselves with nowhere to stay and she had to ask a friend to put them up about seven or eight times.
She said: “They had a spare bedroom but if they had a visitor the three of us had to sleep in the front room.
“Sometimes I would prepare some food for the children and leave it at my friend’s house. She understood - she saw what I was going through.”
Miss Aboagye, an out-of-work healthcare assistant, said someone at Incommunities mentioned there was a homeless hostel they could go to, but advised against going there, saying it wouldn’t be ideal for her children because they would only have one room to share.
“I didn’t want to go there,” she said.
Miss Aboagye said over the next few months she was shown two two-bedroom properties by Incommunities, but said in both places the second bedrooms were just too small for her girls to share.
Then Incommunities said it could help her find a home to rent privately.
She said: “Finding a house is very difficult for a parent or a family.
“At the end of the day, all you want is peace of mind and a place you can live in.
“Whether it’s a private house or whatever, that’s all you want.”
Under a bond guarantee scheme designed to get people into private rentals, Incommunities paid a deposit for Miss Aboagye’s rent and guaranteed the property against damage for one year.
The scheme has to date helped more than 370 families move into rented properties owned by a private landlord.
Miss Aboagye and her children moved into their new home, a two-bedroom terraced house in Girlington, in August.
She said: “It’s very spacious. My daughters are enjoying this place.”

The federation, which represents the UK’s housing associations, is now urging the Government to hand over disused brownfield public land so thousands more affordable homes can be built.

Building more homes on this previously developed land would also give a much-needed boost to the hard-hit construction industry, it says.

Mr Warm said: “The lack of affordable housing is a tragedy for families across Bradford who are helplessly watching as the cost of renting or buying a home spirals out of reach.

“We also know that various Government departments currently own disused land, such as derelict hospitals and disused schools, which could and should be used to build more homes.

“At the same time long-term youth unemployment in Bradford has risen.

“Building new homes and renovating existing ones is the quickest and most effective way to boost a local economy where we know construction is suffering.

“This would help solve Bradford’s housing crisis and create jobs and in the construction industry for a generation who can’t find work.”

A total of 510 new properties were built in Bradford last year, but there were an extra 2,600 households needing a home, the report reveals.

The report reveals hard-pressed families in the city are finding it harder than ever to buy their first property.

The average house price in Bradford in 2011 was £142,041, which is more than seven times the average regional income of £18,595.

Since 2001, house prices in Yorkshire and Humberside have risen by 110 per cent, more than any other region.

And house prices in Yorkshire and the Humber have risen more than 3.5 times faster than earnings over the past ten years, the federation said.

Mr Warm said there was a whole generation stuck renting private homes, who earn too much to be given social housing but who cannot afford the ten or 20 per cent mortgage deposits they needed to get onto the property ladder.

He said: “The simple truth is that people are running out of options.

“I have got young children myself and I think when they are 20 or 25, will they be buying a house? It’s quite difficult to see how they would be.”

The report is also urging the public to get behind the campaign for more homes to be built on brownfield sites.

But Mr Warm said he thought public opinion about building homes was already shifting.

He said: “Actually, people are beginning to realise that development isn’t always a bad thing.

“It’s not always about building houses for some other group. It’s for their children – their sons, their daughters – and making homes they can access as they get older.”

The report shows that Yorkshire and the Humber has a higher proportion of people on social housing waiting lists than any other region.

One in eight households in the region is now stranded on a social housing waiting list, a rise of 81 per cent in the past ten years.

In response, Housing Minister Mark Prisk said the Government was investing nearly £20 billion of public and private funding into an affordable homes programme.

He said: “With more than three million people relying on the private rented sector for their housing needs, we are determined to attract new players to the market and pull out all the stops to get Britain building.

“That’s why we’re offering £10 billion in loan guarantees to provide up to 15,000 new homes for rent, putting £19.5 billion public and private funding into an affordable homes programme, and why we've identified enough formerly used surplus public sector land to sell for 100,000 new homes.

“But it’s right that we also take action to get the Housing Benefit bill under control and under our reforms, those on housing benefit can still afford up to a third of homes on the local rental market.”

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