Chronic lack of housing in Sheffield

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SHEFFIELD is facing a chronic housing shortage - with 90,000 people on the council house waiting list and the city’s population set to soar by 10 per cent in the next decade.

The number of new homes needed to keep up with demand is estimated at 1,300 every year until 2023.

Meanwhile Sheffield’s population is expected to rise from 550,000 people to 600,000 by 2020.

Although the council has formed ‘Sheffield Housing Company’ to build properties on vacant sites around council estates, the initiative will provide only 2,300 homes over the next 15 years.

There are currently nearly 90,000 people on the housing waiting list, around 20,000 of whom are actively making bids for properties.

The size of the waiting list in Sheffield is one of the biggest in the country.

Sheffield Council’s Labour leadership claims the city is in ‘housing crisis’ because private housebuilding projects are at a standstill due to the economy.

And Coun Harry Harpham, council deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, fears the situation will only be worsened by Government changes to housing benefit - dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’.

From April, households with spare bedrooms will see a drop in benefits to ‘encourage’ them to move to smaller homes and free-up larger homes for families.

Coun Harpham said: “The council believes around 6,000 people will be hit by the bedroom tax and, if they all want to be rehoused, we would not have enough suitable homes for them.”

He said although the total waiting list includes people whose circumstances have since changed, and those added as teenagers who now have a house, there is still ‘a substantial number of people who need a new home’.

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis with forecast population growth, and issues such as the bedroom tax, likely to put more pressure on available housing,” he added.

“The council is building 2,300 new homes through the Sheffield Housing Company, with work underway at sites in Norfolk Park and Parson Cross, and construction starting in Shirecliffe later this year.

“But we need 1,300 new homes each year, and the ones we are building will take 15 years.

“We are having to put most of the houses built through the Sheffield Housing Company up for sale, because that is how we are financing the developments - the Government is not giving us money to build new council or housing association housing for rent.”

Sheffield has received £5 million over the last year under the coalition’s New Homes Bonus scheme, which provides councils with a payment for each home completed.

But Coun Harpham said: “It is not as much as was available under the old Housing Market Renewal programme, which paid for large-scale rebuilding programmes, and will not pay for anywhere near as many houses as we need.

“Also, the New Homes Bonus is rewarding councils in the south with more money than those in the north because more homes are being built there.

“In cities such as Sheffield, private sector housebuilders are not delivering housing because of Government economic policies stagnating the economy, while people cannot afford mortgages.”

At the same time, Sheffield’s population is expected to rise from 550,000 to around 600,000 by the end of the decade.

Coun Harpham added: “It all means more pressure on social housing.”