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Shock report on North Walsham housing

PUBLISHED: 16:06 16 April 2008 | UPDATED: 08:55 13 July 2010

PEOPLE on the list for one-bedroomed social housing in North Walsham face a wait of up to 28 years, according to a report.

An acute shortage of affordable accommodation in the town is forcing homeless adults to 'sofa-surf' - staying short-term with different friends - or camp out in tents, caravans and cars, say experts.

PEOPLE on the list for one-bedroomed social housing in North Walsham face a wait of up to 28 years, according to a report.

An acute shortage of affordable accommodation in the town is forcing homeless adults to 'sofa-surf' - staying short-term with different friends - or camp out in tents, caravans and cars, say experts.

Many find it hard to get jobs and are more vulnerable to mental-health problems.

And some fathers, homeless through relationship breakdowns, have nowhere to take their children when they see them for access visits.

The state of affairs emerges from statistics gathered by Eric Seward who presented them to fellow members of North Walsham Town Council.

They revealed that, at the end of last year, 1,116 households were on the waiting lists for homes in the town provided by the Victory Housing Trust and housing associations. Of these, 626 (56pc of the total) had requested one-bedroomed properties.

Mr Seward, who is also a district councillor, said the North Walsham figures were based on a “worst case scenario,” assuming the current situation remained unchanged.

But he added: “This is a hidden story. We knew there was a lot of demand but we didn't know how serious it was.” Some people on the list lived elsewhere but 49pc of the 1,116 total were from North Walsham and its surrounding parishes.

“However you package these figures, North Walsham has an acute social housing problem,” said Mr Seward. Action was needed to build more homes, ensure properties were not unnecessarily empty, and to bring more privately-rented affordable accommodation on to the market.

Lisa Joy, advice services manager with the Citizens Advice Bureau in North Walsham, said the increasing demand for homes from single adults was partly due to family breakdowns and also to the high numbers of people retiring in north Norfolk whose partners later died.

The problem was especially acute for people aged 25-64 who did not fall into any priority category but whose low incomes meant that they could not afford escalating private rents.

“We are seeing fathers who are becoming more and more isolated after a relationship ends because the mother usually stays in the home with the children.

“The fathers are trailing round play parks in the rain with their kids on Saturdays, or you see them sitting eating burgers with them in the precinct because they've nowhere else to go.”

She is liaising with town mayor Ted Gadsden to see whether North Walsham's churches might be able to offer a comfortable meeting place for such families.

FACTFILE

·The total numbers on North Norfolk District Council social housing waiting list at the end of 2007 were about 3,500 - a 16pc increase over an 11-month period.

·On private developments of more than 25 homes, North Norfolk District Council aims to negotiate that about 40pc are affordable properties. If the planning blueprint known as the Local Development Framework is agreed this summer, those numbers will change to developments of more than 10 homes, about half of which must be affordable.

·The average current sale price of a one-bedroomed property in North Walsham is £108,696.

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