No housing ‘timebomb’, says Mayor

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MORE than 2,800 Hartlepool families are languishing on waiting lists for desperately needed social housing, a new report has claimed.

The report, called Home Truths: North East 2012, alleges that the town is facing a “housing timebomb” as there are not enough homes to go around.

But Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond says the situation is not as bleak as the report makes out, pointing out that the number is actually improving and the problem is being addressed.

According to the report, less than half of the new homes needed are being built every year in Hartlepool, and last year 400 new households formed in the town, but only 190 new homes were built.

The report was released yesterday and coincided with a meeting of housing leaders, politicians and the National Housing Federation during a summit in Gateshead, after the report claimed one in 12 North-East households is stranded on a social housing waiting list following rising house prices and rent costs.

And 1,800 families have been accepted by North-East councils as being homeless.

But Mayor Drummond said the number on the town’s waiting list has actually gone down.

He said: “The 2,800 figure is lower than the 3,500 we had not so long ago.”

Mayor Drummond admitted the town does lack certain housing types, including bungalows and four and five-bedroomed properties.

He said the Government is trying to redress the situation through the ‘bedroom tax’ but is “going the wrong way about it”.

The Mayor added: “Whenever we get new developments in Hartlepool, we always insist on an element being affordable housing and we have taken money and brought empty properties into use.

“There is a big difference between needing a house and requiring one – we have a robust allocations policy so people in the most need get first place.”

The National Housing Federation is urging the Government to hand over disused brownfield public land to allow housing associations to build more homes.

Monica Burns, the federation’s North East lead manager, described the town’s situation as a “tragedy” and added: “Building new homes and renovating existing ones is the quickest and most effective way to boost a local economy where we know construction is suffering.”