A SHEFFIELD dad who has been on the council house waiting list for more than 21 years is having to live in a cramped flat above a shop - and has been barred from bidding for empty properties in his area.
David Pemberton, aged 39, who lives with partner Helen Barnsley and six-month-old son Charlie, says he has been told empty family homes around Hackenthorpe have been reserved for people forced to leave homes on the former Scowerdons, Newstead and Weaklands estates which have been demolished.
If a home in the area is not wanted by those households, it is being offered to those with other priorities.
Normally, the council also sets aside one in four homes which come free for people who have been on the waiting list a long time. That policy has not applied in Hackenthorpe because of the demolitions.
David, who works for a metals distribution company and put himself on the housing waiting list as a teenager, has been told that he Helen and the couple starting a family, he is not deemed a priority.
He said: “We are currently in a two-bed private rented flat above the Spar shop, on Birley Moor Road, where my partner works. The flat is not big enough and although we would like another child, we are having to put it off until we have a decent property of our own.
“But I’ve been told that we don’t stand a chance of getting a house in this area, where we have lived all our lives. I have friends and family living nearby and it’s helpful to be near our parents for help with our son.”
David and Helen have approached Sheffield South East Labour MP Clive Betts and he has written to Sheffield Council to ask for an urgent review of lettings policies.
Mr Betts said: “I have always supported a lettings’ policy which gives a fair deal to people who have spent a long time on the waiting list, either to be offered their first home or for a transfer.
“The situation runs contrary to the council’s policy which states that ‘one in four properties can be offered to people with priority due to the length of time they have been on the waiting list.”
He added: “It is now more than 12 months since I pressed this issue with the relevant council officers. Now, after months of waiting – and despite repeated requests for a proper response to the issues I’d been raising - I’ve received a reply simply saying that the policy is being implemented correctly.
“If the policy is being implemented correctly, something is going badly wrong.”
A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said: “Many people spend many years on the register without ever bidding for properties that become available, so time spent on the register is not an indication of need or demand in most cases.
“When houses or flats do become available, they are allocated according to the lettings policy which uses a robust range of criteria to ensure that those in the greatest need receive properties. Currently, one in four homes are advertised to people on the basis of waiting time, rather than priority need.
“In some parts of the city there is a particularly high demand for housing. Therefore we encourage applicants to consider widening their areas of choice, particularly in parts of the city where it has been necessary to ringfence properties to rehouse people affected by demolition programmes. We are here to advise and support anyone through these options in order to secure the best possible housing for them.”