Hard up families face four-year wait on Council’s housing list

AFFORDABLE: Furlough has seen a rise in people seeking social housing

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC], which does not have any of its own council house stock, relies on private housing companies to provide low-cost accommodation. But according to a Freedom of Information [FOI] request by a local resident, there are 860 people currently waiting for housing on Tunbridge Wells’ housing register.

Last year, the Council managed to rehome just 300 people into social housing, which is defined as being at 60 per cent of the area’s market rent.

The average wait time for a three-bedroom social house in the Borough is now more than 1,400 days – just under four years – twice what it was 12 months earlier. In 2020, the average wait for a three-bedroom house in the Borough was just two years.

Waiting lists for two or one-bedroom properties stand at 800 days, or nearly three years. Currently, 100 people are in temporary accommodation, half of whom are in a hotel or B&B at a cost of £200 a week to taxpayers.

Resident Chris Stevenson, who made the FOI request, says hard up families are stuck in a ‘vicious circle’, and many have ‘no hope’ of ever being housed.

He said: “Thanks to the Covid pandemic, many more will be in a worse situation relying on this list, which will ultimately become far worse and will leave many more people in limbo.”

Tunbridge Wells councillors think there is more the Council can do.

Cllr Hugo Pound, who leads the Labour group, said: “This Council is not doing enough to address the severe housing needed across the Borough – and everyone knows it – but the current administration has not made it a priority.

“The Council should become a registered social landlord and start building and managing its own housing for the many families across the Borough who can neither afford to buy nor rent at Tunbridge Wells prices.”

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council say of the 13,500 homes tasked by the Government to be built in the Borough by 2033, 40 per cent are affordable homes – at 80 per cent of market rental value – and of these 60 per cent will be social houses – around 3,240.

Cllr Andy Fairweather, the Cabinet member for Communities and Wellbeing at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, said there has been an increase in the numbers applying for social housing.

“This has been especially acute since January this year. On average the numbers of households applying to the housing register is 30 per week. Prior to the pandemic we were receiving around 23 applications per week,” he said.

He continued: “The Council is seeing more applications from households who are experiencing difficulties in affording their rent and some due to being on furlough.”

He added that fewer lettings have been made by housing associations during the lockdowns.

“There hasn’t been the usual number of properties becoming available for re-let. This has led to households on the housing register having increased waiting times, particularly for family houses.”

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