Council short of homes

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WIGAN is facing an affordable homes crisis - that’s the stark warning from the town’s council housing boss Neil Turner.

Mr Turner, chairman of the Wigan and Leigh Housing, made his stark prediction, as new government figures revealed that building on social housing across the borough has slumped from 97 in 2010 to zero last year.

And the former MP said the situation will worsen when the Government’s controversial new “bedroom tax” plunges single household tenants living in family houses in an impossible position because of the lack of smaller affordable homes to move into.

Official figures revealed that affordable house building had collapsed in Wigan due to the recession and credit crunch with affordable housing flat lining in 2011/12 compared with the previous year.

Calling for urgent action, Mr Turner said the figures demonstrate the “disastrous impact” of Government housing and economic policies.

Mr Turner (left) said that the £4bn cut to the affordable housing budget nationwide had led to a “disastrous” 68 per cent collapse in affordable house building over the past year.

It has also hit the construction and house building industries hard, helping to tip the country back into a double dip recession.

Wigan has approximately 22,500 council homes surviving after the right to buy programme.

Mr Turner believes that an affordable house building programme would be one of the best ways of kick starting the economy because of the sheer range of jobs, from bricklayers, carpenters and electricians to window manufacturers, timber merchants and sales people, it would create.

He said: “It is a terrible statistic for Wigan.

“The problem you always have as a social housing provider is that you are working with what was perceived as being needed 20 or 30 years ago, which were family houses, three and four bedroomed, rather than smaller one and two beds for single people or couples.

“And that is going to be a massive, massive problem for Wigan when the bedroom tax comes in shortly.

“There will be plenty of people who will say with good justification that they can’t afford to drop £20 a week from their family budget and will ask us to rehouse them in smaller housing and we just won’t have them.

“You need this constant turn over to free up houses and we just haven’t been able to do that and we won’t be able to do that without starts on affordable housing coming through.

“This would have been a brilliant opportunity to kick start the economy because, if you talk to any economist, there is nothing better than house building for doing it.

“You get brickies, joiners and electricians back into work and they start spending.

“So it is a double whammy for Wigan with local people who could be building sitting idle while they have been laid off on the dole and you have also got a growing problem with homelessness in Wigan and we are struggling to offer them anywhere to live.”