More than 1,000 Wiganers are living in 'inadequate' housing, charity warns

More than 1,000 people waiting for social housing in Wigan are stuck in unhygienic, cramped or inadequate accommodation, new figures reveal.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 8:50 am
Polly Neate from Shelter

The housing charity Shelter has expressed outrage at families left in desperate need while councils are “haemorrhaging” thousands of social homes.

Wigan Council had 1,290 households on its waiting list who were identified as staying in unsanitary, overcrowded or unsatisfactory living conditions at the end of March 2019.

They formed part of 7,423 households on the list, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics – a 79 per cent rise from the total number waiting a year previously.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The increase was much smaller 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, with sales and demolitions outweighing new builds.

The charity is calling for investment in a new generation of social housing to be reflected in the Government’s forthcoming Budget.

“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,” said chief executive Polly Neate.

“All the while families are forced to live in overcrowded conditions, single parents are making the impossible choice of eating or paying the rent, and children are growing up homeless in grim B&Bs.”

Joanne Willmott, Wigan Council’s assistant director of provider management and market development, said: “Wigan Council is committed to providing quality, affordable housing for local people to help them get onto the property ladder while also supporting the economy to thrive.

“There is an open application process to register on the Council’s housing list and people self-identify their current accommodation is not fit for purpose. We have a home finder team and a private rented enforcement offer that offers direct help to people who are struggling in their current accommodation due to unsatisfactory living conditions.

“We have been successful in being awarded additional money for 2020/21 to improve the quality of private rented homes and provide additional support to Wigan residents. We are launching an ethical lettings agency, working with private landlords to offer quality, affordable housing and help raise standards in the rental sector.

“In 2018/19, the council by far exceeded its housing delivery requirements by constructing 1,350 homes against a target of 944 – of which 291 were classed as affordable homes – nearly one quarter of the total number of new homes built borough-wide.

“These came from a combination of our direct build, housing association direct build and the affordable properties required as part of planning applications from private schemes.

“The council has also procured a comprehensive Housing Needs Assessment for the borough that will feed into a new Housing Strategy. As part of this we are currently looking at a range of options to help us to increase the delivery of affordable homes in the borough.

“We remain committed to building good quality housing at pace and as a result of our partnership working and growing housing stock, we’re in a much stronger position to resist developments in inappropriate locations in the future.”

Nationally 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 a change to the law in 2011, which allowed councils to set their own rules for who to accept onto them in the first place.

Government figures also show that, of all new social rent households with a known waiting time in 2018-19, 48 per cent had been on the list for at least a year before securing a new home.

A government spokeswoman said 141,000 new social homes had been created since 2010.

She added: “Last year we delivered more homes than any year in the last 30 years and will deliver a million more in this parliament.

“We abolished the borrowing cap so councils can build more social homes, giving families the chance to find somewhere safe and secure.”