ALMOST 10,000 people are on a waiting list for a council house in Barnsley - representing a rise of about 2,000 more than before the pandemic’s start - according to new figures revealed this week.

As of March 1, 9,518 applications were outstanding and as of March 18, there were 55 households in emergency or temporary accommodation.

More than 120 council properties stand empty, although this equates to less than one per cent of the local authority’s 19,000-strong housing stock, which is overseen by Berneslai Homes.

However, according to statistics, the amount of people applying for accommodation has soared over a two-year period when the average was about 7,000.

The National Housing Federation is warning that the number of people in need of social housing is set to continue to rise rapidly as a result of the pandemic.

Chief executive Kate Henderson: “The sharp end of the housing crisis is getting sharper, and at a rapid rate.

“Under-investment in social housing has left us with virtually no affordable homes available for people on the lowest incomes.

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“Everyone deserves a safe, secure and affordable home and social housing provides that vital safety net for low-income people including thousands of key workers who have been keeping our country going at this time.

“We are calling on the government to commit to a once-in-a-generation investment in social housing and put homes at the heart of its plans for economic and social recovery.”

Two years ago, there were 1,162 homes which had stood empty for six months, and 61 for more than ten years, leading to a multi-million pound scheme to improve standards and buy back long-term derelict properties from private landlords.

An example of such work is on Carlton Street, Grimethorpe, where the council bought 22 Yorkshire Housing properties at a cost of just £13,863 per dwelling - homes which had been unoccupied and had fallen into disrepair but now have tenants and are run by Berneslai Homes.

Since 2011, the council commissioned the builds of 170 new homes, and has more housing under construction at Athersley South, Bolton-upon-Dearne and Monk Bretton.

Kathy McArdle, service director for regeneration and culture at the council, said: “We want to make sure everyone in Barnsley can live in the right house for them.

“When we’re handing over a council property to a new tenant, our managing agent - Berneslai Homes - will always take time to complete important repairs and make sure it’s ready for them moving in.

“There will always be a number of properties in our stock that are empty while people move in and out.

“Properties that are empty for longer often need more extensive works, are being held as decant dwellings for people who need to temporarily move out of their homes during major repairs, or may be more difficult to let, needing additional advertising.

“At any one time, less than one per cent of stock is empty awaiting re-let.

“The government says we must provide more than 21,500 new homes by 2033, and we want to achieve this through sustainable, quality housing.

“We’re proud to currently have new council homes with gas-free heating under construction in Bolton-upon-Dearne, Monk Bretton and Athersley South, as well as a further scheme at the planning stage for Market Street, Goldthorpe.”