Housing waiting list stretches to 11 years as threat of homelessness rises

By Natalia Forero, Local Democracy Reporter

Albion Towers by Angela ChickenThere are more than 8,000 applicants for social housing in Southampton but they face waits of up to 11 years and five months for a home.



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The news comes as Southampton City Council gave an update on the number of households facing homelessness as low-income families are hit by utility bill hikes and rising rents during the cost of living crisis.

The number of households approaching the council who said they are under threat of being homeless within 56 days has risen over the last three years.

In 2020/21, the city council supported 1,242 people who were threatened with homelessness. In 2021/22, around 1,609 and 1,826 in 2022/23.

Maria Byrne, the city council’s service lead for housing and welfare support, predicts an increase of around 1,900 for the coming year.

The officer said: “We’ve seen more and more people come to us for advice. It’s not just people on benefits; it’s low-income families with, especially, the rise of the cost of living. We’ve seen households that we wouldn’t have seen before because people are generally finding it difficult to find housing, whether social or private.

“The most common reasons why people got evicted is because landlords want to sell or re-let the property, the tenants experience financial difficulties and due to increased rent.”

Currently, around 8,000 applications are on a waiting list for social housing.

Waiting times show that for a one-bedroom home, the 4,304 on the list might need to wait two years and three months if they are on the priority list. If not, they could face a wait of four and eight years.

According to the data, 1,498 applications for a two-bedroom are on the waiting list, with similar waiting times.

However, the 1,548 waiting for a three-bedroom might wait nine years if they are on the priority list; if not, they might have to wait 11 years and five months.

Mrs Byrne said: “A lot of people on that waiting list for social housing might never get that property. That’s why we need to be realistic with people around: “You need to also look for other accommodation options”.

Albion Towers by Angela ChickenAlbion Towers in St Mary's, Southampton.. Photo: Angela Chicken

According to the Local Government Association, councils spend £1.7bn a year renting temporary and often overcrowded accommodation.

In Southampton, 182 households are on temporary emergency housing accommodations, 20 are placed on bed and breakfast accommodations for more than six weeks, and around 150 are on nightly paid accommodation.

The officer also said that at the moment, the top three main reasons for people becoming homeless are family and friends eviction, where they are no longer willing or able to accommodate people; private section evictions, not only Section 21; and domestic abuse.

She added: “When a person comes to the local authority and says they received the note of eviction, we would contact the landlord directly to see if we could do anything to keep them at the property.

“We are in a difficult situation. We sort of sit on the fence with everything. Initially, we will ensure the landlord follows the correct procedures. We don’t just accept the landlord giving the notice.

“We would check that when the tenancy was set up, they’ve given the right documentation to the tenant because we also need to ensure that we’re dealing with reputable landlords. If there are reasons that they’re not, then we would refer to and deal with those as necessary.

“We would always try to save the tenancy if it is safe.”

To prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless, the council works with tenants and landlords to resolve issues where possible. If the tenancy issue can’t be solved, the council will assist households by finding an alternative private rented accommodation and offering financial support for the deposit or rent in advance.

Ms Byrne said: “Within the team, we would always make the right checks to make sure all the documentation is in order. If it is one that we introduced, we will go to the confirming viewing to see the state of the property.

“We’ve noticed that when people’s affordability is restricted, they try to look for smaller accommodations. Maybe children would squeeze into one bed. Overcrowding is a thing. It is quite real out there at the moment.

This year, the city council has helped 320 households set them up into a new private tenancy.

She added: “Although we struggled with our options, many tenancies are set up. There is a scent of appetite among people looking for accommodation. Families or anyone facing homelessness doesn’t want to go to a bed & breakfast. They need permanent, stable housing.

“Homelessness brings a lot of factors, brings health issues, mental health difficulties, which is why we tried to minimise that where we can, but we are always not successful.”

ldrs logo 200px This article is from the Local Democracy Reporting Service or Shared Data Unit. Some alterations and additions may have been made by our site, which is a partner in the BBC's Local News Partnerships scheme. LDRS journalists are funded by the BBC to cover local authorities and other public service organisations, and content is shared with all partners.

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