‘Significant’ pressures on Corby housing see waiting lists and arrears shoot up

Corby Borough Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee meets at the Corby Cube NNL-191102-170004005
Corby Borough Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee meets at the Corby Cube NNL-191102-170004005

An extra 367 people joined Corby Council’s housing waiting list in the past year - up by 25 per cent.

The council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee was told at last week’s meeting that the number of people on the waiting list on January 1 was 1483: a ‘significant’ increase from 1116 on January 1 2018.

The number of people joining the list was said to be attributable to a range of factors including recent changes in the way housing benefit is awarded.

Councillors were also told that rent arrears had risen in total to £784,000 from £519,000 a year ago. There were now 1,583 rent arrears cases in the borough - up by 279 cases in the past year.

They also heard that the number people informing the council that they were homeless had increased by a huge 487 per cent this year. There had been 531 approaches to the council from people saying they were homeless compared to 111 in 2017.

There are eight households being put up in B&Bs, five classed as ‘homeless at home’ (temporarily staying with family, in a shelter or hostel, at risk of abuse at home or living in squalid conditions) two in temporary accommodation and the remainder are waiting for a place to become available

A report to councillors said: “(There is) a steadily increasing demand for social housing and affordable housing which is reflective of the increasing costs of private sector housing and the changes in housing benefits.

“This is also reflected in homelessness and the lack of access to affordable private sector rented housing.”

Addressing the meeting, Corby Council’s head of housing Andrew Cotton said: “The increase in waiting lists is really significant.

“There’s an increase in homelessness and we’re seeing an increase in terms of the number of presentations.”

He said the rise in the number of people declaring themselves homeless was in part down to the council’s new obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

Mr Cotton also said he hoped the problem would be helped by the introduction of a new, more efficient housing department computer system.

Staff had been given individual action plans to try to reduce the amount of arrears.

“There’s also a big refurbishment project at Neville House which is in a difficult location within the town centre,” added Mr Cotton.

“The contract has started and there’ll be completion this year of some 12 new units of accommodation.

“Town centre living is really attractive to some people.”

Meanwhile, the committee heard that a new company had taken over the council’s gas repairs contract. Cllr Bob Eyles said: “We have a new gas servicing engineer because Liberty was chaos last year. They have people in Corby - they’re not coming out from Leeds or wherever.”