Six thousand actively battling for limited social housing in Walsall as demand continues to outstrip supply

Thousands of people are battling for scarce social housing as increasing demand continues to outstrip supply in Walsall.

Walsall Council
Walsall Council

Provider Walsall Housing Group (whg) told members of Walsall Council’s Scrutiny Committee they currently had 16,000 registered applicants – with 6,000 of those actively bidding for a new home.

And the list is expected to grow even more as the cost of living crisis impacts people across the borough.

As of March 31, whg owned and managed a total of 21,832 but Fay Shanahan, Corporate Director of Operations, told councillors they currently had a 99.8 per cent occupancy level.

She added millions has been spent building hundreds of new homes last year with work starting on almost 500 more but they were still looking for new land for development.

The length of time people spend on the waiting list varies depending on the availability of the right housing for each applicant.

Among the reasons people register with whg are they are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, have a medical need and their current property cannot be adapted, overcrowding, young people moving out of the family home, a need to be closer to schools or support networks, people who can no longer afford private rentals and those discharged from armed forces.

Fay Shanahan said: “The demand for housing is extremely high and we currently have over 16,000 registered applicants, with around 6,000 households who are actively bidding for a new home on our housing register.

“Housing need is increasing and we recognise that this is likely to be further impacted by the cost of living crisis and the continued economic uncertainty.

“We invested over £47m last year building 418 new homes and starting 470 more, but demand continues to outstrip supply.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councillor Adam Hicken: “In council speak (6,000 applicants) is like an entire ward’s worth of properties.

“Presumably you’ve always had a waiting list but what’s the plan to try and house these people and what can we as an authority do to remove any roadblocks?”

Mrs Shanahan said: “It’s gone up significantly since the pandemic and with the private rented sector being so buoyant and landlords being able to have their choice of applicants, we’re finding increasingly people are struggling to secure their own accommodation.

“Walsall isn’t in isolation. Anything you can do as a local authority to help us build more whether that is making quicker planning decisions or helping us find land or parcels of land you have we would happily build on.”

Councillor Suky Samra asked whether they work with other providers to ease the list and added: “We’ve got thousands of people in a very difficult and precarious position.”

Mrs Shanahan said: “The list will continue to be a challenge as it reflects what is going on in broader society.

“We know the cost of living is hitting households, we now have inflation, mortgage interest going up at a scary rate.

“People will be making choices on whether they can continue to live in the accommodation we have. We don’t nominate to other providers as they will have their own list.”

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