Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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A grim prediction

May 23 2009
Five million people will be waiting for council accommodation by 2010, says Local Government Association Up to four in 10 households are on council housing waiting lists and the number is expected to rise, a new survey claims. Home repossessions have soared in recent months - by up to 70 per cent in some areas - due to the economic downturn, with around four million people now waiting for council accommodation. But this number, according to the study by housing experts the Local Government Association (LGA), is set to increase to five million by 2010. Although the Government has pledged money to build more social housing, the LGA insists this is insufficient, as new homes will not be built for several years. Ministers have called for 200,000 homes to be built each year, but fewer than 100,000 are being started, a figure likely to fall in the next few years as the credit crunch bites. Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA Environment Board, said: "Even when the economic good times were rolling, councils saw ever-increasing pressure on social housing stock. "Now that the credit crunch is biting hard, it appears that many thousands more will be looking to councils to provide them with a permanent home as they either find it impossible to get on the housing ladder or see their home repossessed. In parts of the country, the system is creaking at the seams." In the 1950s, more than 200,000 council homes were built each year, dropping to 100,000 in the early 1980s and falling further to 30,000 by 1997, when Tony Blair became Prime Minister. Now, with four million people waiting to be housed by local authorities (and an expected rise of one million in two years), those who can't stay with friends or family are housed in often overcrowded bed and breakfasts. At least 45,000 homes will have been repossessed by the end of December, a 70 per cent rise from last year, while the number of mortgages in arrears has jumped by 22 per cent. Meanwhile, first-time buyers wanting to buy a home are struggling, as no one will give them a mortgage. But homelessness minister Iain Wright said the government was investing "record amounts" to prevent homelessness, including a £400 million fund for councils to apply to for affordable housing and social homes schemes. He said: "We are helping people at risk of repossession remain in their homes through our £200m mortgage rescue scheme and working with lenders to ensure repossessions are only ever a last resort," he said. "At the same time, we are investing record amounts in preventing and reducing homelessness and are looking at what more we can do to further reduce rough sleeping, which has fallen by nearly twothirds over the last decade." The LGA's survey shows that 63 councils have more than one in 10 residents on a social housing list, and eight of them have more than one in five on their list. Big cities have the longest waiting lists. In Brent, North London, 41 per cent of households are struggling to find a home; while in Sheffield the figure is 39.7 per cent. In Newham, East London, 25.5 per cent of households are on the list; in Bradford, 24.3 per cent; and in Bolton, 23 per cent. Councils have a duty to house anyone who is homeless. Priority groups include teenagers aged 16-17, pregnant women and those who are leaving care homes. Meanwhile, a similar study by housing charity Crisis found that the UK is facing a "homelessness timebomb", as a third of people would lose their homes within three months if they lost their jobs. This month the British Chambers of Commerce warned that unemployment could peak at 3.25 million - more than 10 per cent of the workforce - if Government bids to kick start the economy were inadequate. However, any increase in unemployment levels could prove disastrous for those already struggling to meet rent and mortgage repayments, according to the charity. Crisis said: "If unemployment continues to rise, the knock-on effect of a rise in homelessness could occur very soon." New figures and the recession mean there could be five million homeless by 2010 Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: "Recent job losses are creating a homelessness timebomb. The Government must act to help people struggling to pay their mortgage to avoid repossession and move quickly to protect private tenants. "It must accelerate the building of new social housing and at the same time widen the safety net of support for those facing homelessness. Finally, we must not forget those who are already homeless. They are in danger, once again, of being at the bottom of the pile."