Shelter demands action from Government over Sheffield 'housing emergency'

The Government has been attacked by a leading homelessness charity for its failure to tackle a “housing emergency” in Sheffield.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 8:30 am

Research from Shelter found a 46 per cent rise in private renters relying on housing benefit to pay rent over the past year, while nearly 3,000 households in the city were either made homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Just 229 social homes were built in Sheffield between February 2020 and April 2021, the charity said, with 23,000 households on the social housing waiting list.

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Homeless on the streets of Sheffield. The homeless charity Shelter have warned of a 'housing emergency' in the city

One Shelter Sheffield client, aged 38, named as ‘Catherine’, described how her and her children’s lives were upended by constant moves after being priced out of the private rental market when she was unable to find a guarantor.

The average rent for a social home in Sheffield is £317, compared to £575 in the private rented sector.

Eventually, she and her children were placed in a social home.

“My daughter’s birthday was in October. She wished for a house. Then, in November, we got one. My daughter has been unsettled since she was four. She’s been in and out of places, not knowing where home is, and now she talks about going home for the first time. It’s amazing,” she said.

Social housing has changed Catherine’s family’s life.

“They are chucking houses up but they aren’t affordable. We need more social housing. It's not rocket science,” she added.

Shelter’s new report, Levelling Up with Social Housing, looks at the housing emergency through three locations which the charity said lack affordable housing: Sheffield, Burnley and Plymouth.

The report warns the levelling up investment including rail and infrastructure could lead to rising house prices, and calls for the Government to match investment with housing, pound for pound.

Tracey Nathan, Hub Manager at Shelter Sheffield, said: “We believe a safe home is a human right, but the pain and desperation our frontline staff see every day shows this is still a long way off.

“This is especially evident in Sheffield, where the last year has seen huge numbers in the private rented sector having to turn to housing benefit to help pay the rent.

“What the Government needs to know about ‘Levelling Up’ is that without a clear commitment to building social housing specifically, this may prove impossible.”

A Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “We don’t recognise these figures. Our action since the start of the pandemic has helped keep people in Sheffield in their homes by providing unprecedented financial support and banning evictions.

“We continue to support those most in need and are projected to spend almost £30 billion supporting people throughout the country with their housing costs in 2021-22.

“Our central mission is to level up every part of the United Kingdom by spreading opportunity, empowering local leaders, improving public services and regenerating our town centres and high streets.”

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show there were at least 4,774 empty properties in Sheffield at the most recent count in October – up four per cent from 4,585 last year.

Of those, 2,842 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 997 had been abandoned for more than two years.