Families in battle to keep homes

VULNERABLE families are facing a tough 12 months ahead in keeping their homes, according to Wigan Council housing experts.

Over the last year, 84 per cent of vulnerable households have been saved from homelessness thanks to the council’s intervention and 162 new affordable homes have been created.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Economy, Environment, Culture and Housing Scrutiny Committee, housing officers revealed that despite making good progress, they expect to be “moving to choppier waters.”

But they will work even harder to help vulnerable residents, from building affordable housing to taking preventative measures to ensure families do not lose their homes.

Following the introduction of the Affordable Housing Strategy in 2006, the council anticipates by the end of 2011 there will be 641 additional lettings, which includes all the new properties for rent, low-cost ownership and other housing made affordable through council initiatives.

Housing officers are currently developing a strategy to prevent families from losing their homes, including a duty advice worker at court for housing possession cases; assigning a repossessions advisor to provide guidance on debt; a dedicated liaison officer offering support and advice for landlords; a homeless assessment service focussing on preventative measures and a two-year funded housing brokerage service to help people with learning disabilities have more control over living arrangements.

Peter Layland, head of housing and community regeneration at Wigan Council, said: “Over the next 12 months we will be moving to choppier waters. Government funding is reducing and there are few signs of the housing market reviving.

“Less affordable housing will be created and with the stagnant economy, public sector cuts and unemployment, we can see homelessness will increase. The silent killer is the impending welfare reforms which will have a more dramatic effect on housing over the next couple of years.

“There may be an increase in homelessness, but we are trying to help people before they lose their homes through our preventative strategies.”