Thousands waiting for council housing

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The scale of Yorkshire’s housing crisis has been revealed after a new report showed nearly a quarter of a million people on waiting lists for council housing.

Statistics from the GMB showed that there are 236,105 households in the Yorkshire and the Humber on a local authority housing waiting list while average house prices in the region are now 4.8 times median earnings.

Tim Roache, GMB Regional Secretary, said the figure was a “direct result of the dominance of the metropolitan elite, career politicians and professional classes” in parliament.

He said: “MPs have contempt, born of pure ignorance, for building good quality council homes for families of millions of lower paid workers who can never afford to buy a home.

“Council housing is the most cost effective way of providing decent homes for these families.”

He said lower income families were being “shut even further” out of the housing market as the value of earnings dropped and house prices rose.

He added that 80,000 new social housing homes were needed each year to meet demand.

The report ranked Sheffield worst in the region, with 61,204 households on a local authority housing waiting list while average house prices in the city are now 4.8 times median earnings.

Rotherham was second with 26,158 households waiting for council housing, and average house prices at 4 times median earnings. Leeds was third with 20,334 households waiting and house prices in the city at 4.8 times median earnings.

And in North Yorkshire and York, the average house price is almost seven times the median salary.

However, the report has been criticised for using figures that are in some cases, more than a year old.

Sheffield City Council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, Coun Harry Harpham, said the figures were misleading, as it does not have a waiting list, rather an open bidding process for which anyone can register to bid for a property in future. Currently around 28,641 people are on the housing register, of which 6,780 have bid on a property since October last year. He said: “In reality, most people who are registered but are not currently trying to find a council house.”

Coun Harpham added: “We agree that council housing waiting lists are too long, and are actively trying to combat this here in Sheffield by building new council houses.”

Dave Richmond, Director of Housing for Rotherham Borough Council, also said the figure quoted was no longer correct. A review of people on the housing register reduced the number by more than 10,000, and of these just under 50 per cent, had never bid for a property, he added.

Leeds Council is soon to start work on its biggest new council house building programme in 30 years. The Council’s Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, Planning and Personnel, Coun Peter Gruen, said: “As the country’s second largest local authority, we clearly are likely to have a bigger number of people on our council house waiting list than many smaller authorities. However, we absolutely agree with the GMB that having affordable places for people to live in Leeds is vital and that is why we are already undertaking an ambitious programme of work to deliver more reasonably priced housing for people in the city.”

The Government’s housing minister Brandon Lewis said its Help to Buy scheme had enabled more than 35,000 households to get on the property ladder with a low deposit. He said waiting lists for council housing were falling and that Council house building was at a 23-year high.