Today’s spending review announcement of up to 60% cuts in housing sector funding will potentially lead to an increase in homelessness on the region’s streets says local housing provider, SSHA.
Association that manages over 5000 homes across Staffordshire & Shropshire says that they have already seen a 10% increase to their waiting lists last year and with potential public sector job cuts of around half a million, increasing mortgage arrears and cuts to housing benefit, this figure is expected to rocket as Chief Executive Debbie Griffiths explains;
“Our waiting list currently sits at just over 2100 applications and in the existing climate we struggle to house only the top 15% of these applications, those that are in the highest need. Today’s announcement that indicates cuts to housing benefit will no doubt lead to our existing customers struggling with the affordability of their homes. This coupled with already increasing homelessness, up by 4% this quarter, will see unprecedented demands placed on our services. In the future we may only be able to help 10% of applicants leaving over 2000 vulnerable people, families and the elderly with nowhere to go.”
It’s not just demand that will be an issue for Associations like SSHA, supply will also become an issue as the Government cuts development grants for new affordable homes. Cuts of up to £1.7b per year will be made to development funding meaning build programmes like SSHA’s 2009/10 regional programme of 225 new affordable homes will become a thing of the past and instead communities will see only 92 new affordable homes of potentially lower quality and reduced energy efficiency. In practical terms this means that developments such as SSHA’s 14 new affordable homes in Swindon near Wombourne simply wouldn’t happen even though demand is proven with over 83 applications for 14 homes.
Debbie Griffiths adds; “Associations will have to find innovative solutions to build new affordable homes in partnership with organisations like the Homes and Communities Agency but this will take time, time we don’t have given the expected increase in applications. Traditionally people who need a home could turn to private landlords or housing associations like ours as a safety net, but this isn’t going to be the case. We will not be able to meet demand and we are already seeing a dip in the availability of private rented properties as landlords face tough times and cash in their assets. So where will these people go, on the streets? Housing is an essential given the impact it has on life chances and therefore it should be given the priority it deserves.”