Data reveals sub-standard living conditions as North Herts District Council social housing list tops 2,000
- Credit: Daniel Wilson
More than 1,500 people waiting for social housing in North Hertfordshire are stuck in unhygienic, cramped or inadequate accommodation, new figures reveal.
The housing charity Shelter has expressed outrage as they say families across England are being left in desperate need, while councils are "haemorrhaging" thousands of social homes.
North Hertfordshire District Council had 1,736 households on its waiting list - who were identified as staying in unsanitary, overcrowded or unsatisfactory living conditions as of the end of March last year.
They formed part of 2,191 households on the list, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics - a 13 per cent rise from the total number waiting a year previously.
Responding to this rise, Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb, NHDC leader, said: "This highlights the challenging local housing market that we operate in.
"Spiralling house prices in the home ownership sector and a lack of affordable properties in a small private rent sector all continue to contribute to high demand for affordable housing.
He added: "One of these categories of need, stipulated by government, is households living in 'insanitary, overcrowded or unsatisfactory' conditions. This category is made up of households in many different circumstances, ranging from a handful living in poor condition accommodation to the majority which are in accommodation with limited security of tenure; typically because they are in a private rented tenancy.
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"Housing conditions in the district are generally good, however if residents have any concerns regarding the conditions of their rented property, they can contact the council's environmental health team, as landlords must provide housing that is of good standard and safe to live in. Ultimately, if a household is living in conditions where it is not reasonable for them to continue occupying the accommodation, the council may owe them a homeless duty and they will be accommodated according to homelessness law."
The same pattern was seen across England as a whole, where the number on waiting lists rose by four per cent, to 1.2 million. Of those, more than one in five were being forced to wait in substandard accommodation.
Meanwhile, Shelter said its own analysis of government figures showed there was a net loss of more than 17,000 social homes last year, as sales and demolitions outweighed new builds.
The charity is calling for investment in a new generation of social housing to be reflected in the Government's forthcoming Budget.
Polly Neate, Shelter's chief executive, said: "With over a million families in desperate need of social housing, it is absolutely outrageous that we are haemorrhaging thousands of secure social homes every year.
The number of households on council housing waiting lists has dropped by 34 per cent over the last decade. But Shelter said this was partly down to legislative changes in 2011, which allowed councils to set their own rules over who would be accepted onto waiting lists.