Portsmouth housing waiting list would take ‘almost 80 years’ to clear at its current rate, Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey claimed
PORTSMOUTH’S huge backlog of people waiting for affordable housing has spiralled to such extremes it would take almost 80 years to clear.
That was the stark warning given to the city by John Healey, shadow housing minister, as he claimed the island was facing a homes ‘crisis’.
The Labour bigwig said there were more than 1,000 households on the waiting list, with 2,225 people waiting to be housed.
But he said at the current rate the city is building new social rented dwellings, it would take until at least 2096 to clear the backlog.
Council chiefs have denied this, saying there are plans in the pipeline to construct hundreds more affordable homes in the coming years.
But Mr Healey said Portsmouth City Council had been ‘too slow to act’ to the crisis, and added: ‘We have seen a rise in homeless families, with nearly 500 confirmed as homeless and in priority need by the council in the last year alone.
‘We have seen the number of times the council has to step in and prevent homelessness doubling over the last eight years.
‘This is a council that didn’t see a single new social rented home built within this city last year. Over the last five years the only new social rented homes in this city are being bought by housing associations, with 53 bought last year.
‘Even that’s pitiful. At the rate they’re going at the moment, it would take nearly 80 years just to clear the current people on the waiting list.’
His comments came during a trip to city today to meet Stephen Morgan, Labour MP for Portsmouth South,
He joined city Labour activists during a tour of Leamington House, one of two tower blocks which was deemed unsafe and had to be evacuated – with plans now in the works to tear it and the neighbouring Horatia House down.
Reacting to the statement by Mr Healey, Councillor Darren Sanders, Portsmouth’s housing boss, said the council was looking at quicker, alternative methods of creating new homes, which included buying and converting empty private properties into new dwellings.
Cllr Sanders said: ‘Portsmouth is an island and has limited space yet the government is telling us to build more homes that we just can’t cope with.
‘In many parts of the country you can simply build your way out of a crisis.
‘But the crisis is already here. It would take us too long to build more homes at this stage.’
He added 187 social and affordable homes were due to be developed at the Kingston Prison site.
While Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader of the council, said the 272 properties due to be knocked down at Horatia and Leamington would be replaced by ‘441’ properties.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson added he was ‘happy’ to ‘work together’ with other parties to address Portsmouth housing crisis.
‘The thing that will massively increase the number of social housing being built is the decision by the Tories last year to reverse the policy of the previous Labour government to allow councils to borrow more money to build council housing,’ he said. ‘We’re now aiming to build several hundred more council homes in the next few years.’
A spokesman for Portsmouth City Council added: ‘The council has built hundreds of new council homes over the last five years as part of the most ambitious council-home building programme for a generation. It has also committed to building 228 more council homes in the short-term.’