MARKET issues causing soaring house prices and the cost-of-living crisis are posing a ‘perfect storm’ expected to lead to a rise in homelessness, senior councillors were told.
Homelessness teams working within Barnsley Council are seeing more employed people approaching services for support, Tuesday’s meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee was told.
Michelle Kaye, group leader for housing and welfare, said the average length of stay in temporary accommodation is currently six months but is ‘unfortunately’ rising due to pressure on the housing market and a lack of council housing stock.
The government recently pledged ‘one-for-one’ replacements of homes sold under the renewed Right to Buy scheme - which allows council and, as recently announced, housing association tenants, to buy their home at a discount.
In Barnsley, figures from 2012/13 to 2020/21 show 1,235 houses were sold under Right to Buy in Barnsley - but just 169 properties were acquired or saw construction started over the same period.
Homelessness bosses are looking to increase the number of council houses used as temporary accommodation for people at risk of homelessness, from 25 to 30, while also working more with private sector landlords and other social housing providers.
“Getting a private rental that’s affordable in Barnsley is quite a significant challenge,” said Michelle.
“It used to be relatively easy to get something within local housing allowance levels - that’s really difficult at the minute.
“A lot of landlords are exiting the market, because they’re either capitalising on high house prices and selling or they’re having affordability issues as well because of the cost of living crisis.”
Michelle said a financial resilience officer is working with people who approach services to maximise their benefits, or support them in gaining employment or furthering their career, amid the cost of living crisis.
“It’s a bit of a perfect storm,” added Michelle.
“We are quite worried about the fact people are struggling to pay bills, including rent.
“Temporary accommodation properties, in the main, get paid for through housing benefit and that does cover the rent.
“The issue comes when people are working, and we are seeing more working people approach the service because of the cost of living crisis.
“We are on the cusp of seeing an increase in homelessness because people can’t afford it.
“The housing market and cost of living crisis are all coming at once, but we are trying to put plans in place to mitigate some of that.”