THE number of people waiting for social housing across the borough has trebled over the past five years – with the council battling to provide enough homes.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that the number of households on Cheshire West and Chester Council’s social housing waiting list stood at 2,791 at the end of 2014-15.

That number stood at 7,976 at the end of 2018-19 – and CWAC says its social housing waiting list now has around 9,000 households on it.

But the authority is facing an uphill battle to house those people, and in 2018-19 only 1,228 properties became available.

Labour Cllr Richard Beacham, CWAC’s cabinet member for housing, regeneration and growth, said: “There is a reality to social housing which is really, really challenging.

“There are people spending a long time waiting for housing to become available, but at the same time there are people experiencing real difficulties in their lives to do with austerity, benefit changes and Universal Credit.

Winsford Guardian:

“So you have people waiting to move up the list, while there are people coming in at the top of the list because of the pressures they face.

“Housing is supposed to be about hope and about people’s wellbeing – but at the moment we have a situation where people are constantly waiting for a home to become available.”

The waiting list has grown dramatically in recent years, swelling from 4,299 households in 2016-17 to 5,913 just a year later, before another 2,000 households joined the list the following year.

CWAC is now looking to change its housing allocations policy to make it clearer to residents who are unlikely to receive social housing that they need to look for support elsewhere.

Cllr Beacham added: “What we are trying to do is be realistic with people, give them a true reflection of whether they can get social housing and make it much simpler for people to understand their options.”

If approved, the number of bands would be cut from five to three, while a ‘housing options band’ would be introduced for people who are considered not to have a social housing need.

The policy would also mean applicants had to live in the borough for two years, while they would be restricted to three bids in each bidding cycle.

Cllr Lynn Gibbon, Conservative shadow cabinet member for regeneration, housing and growth, said: “I am supportive of trying this new system because I think it will stop people’s hopes being raised if they have no realistic chance of securing council housing.

Winsford Guardian:

“It should make things simpler for people, although the actual policy is a bit difficult for the lay person to understand – it is 71 pages and it is not clearly defined.

“We also need to ensure we have support in place for those people that fall into the third category so they can find out what other options are available to

them.

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“That is what I am not seeing with this policy at the moment. Also, an annual review should be undertaken to see if it is meeting the objects for change.”

Residents can have their say on the new housing allocations policy until Sunday, December 1, at cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/allocationsconsultation