Why is the county getting two more empty homes every week? We need urgent action

There is a rule of thumb in housing. It is much easier to give permission to build new homes, most of them on green fields, than to bring empty homes back into use. Empty homes are a growing problem here in Shropshire where the number of homes empty for at least six months is increasing at the rate of two a month. We have a bigger proportion of our housing stock empty than England as a whole.

There were 4,460 empty homes in Shropshire last year, 1,654 of which had been vacant for more than six months. The waiting list for social housing stood at 5,227 households at the beginning of the year. One effective way of reducing that would be to take urgent action to bring more empty homes into use. But Shropshire Council seems to have given up on empty homes.

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The housing scandal Shropshire Council is hiding – it gives most the money it gets for struggling people back to Whitehall

Shropshire Council received more than half a million pounds in funding from the ministry of housing last year. The funding was for Discretionary Housing Payments, which help those struggling to meet housing costs, including advance rent and removal bills and  people that need a top up to ensure benefits cover the rent charged.

What did the council do with its £531,974 grant? It sent more than half of the money back to Whitehall.

I’ll pass that by you again. Shropshire Council thinks that there is so little need for short term housing support in our county it thinks it has the luxury of sending money back to the government. It gave back £300,000 last year. Only six out of more than 300 councils in England and Wales give back a higher proportion of their grant. This scandal is hurting people in Shropshire who struggle with housing costs. Yet you won’t find any information about it on the council website.

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Shropshire Council is planning to set up a company to build homes – it must build affordable and green homes

Shropshire is getting serious about building homes. That’s good news but we councillors will need to study the detail carefully. All developments should include affordable housing and all should meet the highest green standards.

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It’s Rural Housing Week – Shropshire Council must commit to building more affordable and smaller housing

“Housing is the first social service.”[1] But Shropshire’s housing statistics make an uncomfortable read. They suggest we are not providing the housing social service our residents need.[2]

It’s Catch 22 here in Shropshire. Over the years, we have built homes that are larger than average. That means that four in ten homes in the county have two or more spare bedrooms. Many older people would like to downsize but they can’t find suitable smaller housing in the villages and market towns they live in. That in turn means that growing families can’t move into bigger homes. The shortage of smaller houses means that younger people cannot afford homes near where they live and work. It also pushes up rents and prevents people getting onto the housing ladder.

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We need affordable housing in Shropshire but will lose out because of a government statistical trick

The government has announced that it will allow local councils to borrow more £1 billion to build new council houses. Not a penny of this will be available to Shropshire.

This is yet another blow delivered by Westminster. Most housing developments in our county do not pay affordable housing contributions after ministers decreed that small developments should be exempt from the levee. Now it is using a statistical trick to bar us from accessing funds to build new council housing.

Shropshire needs 6,000 additional affordable houses to bring it up to the national average provision. That would all but wipe out the county’s housing waiting list. But rural areas like ours are not on the government’s radar.

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