Levelling up without social housing could escalate Burnley’s housing emergency, says charity Shelter

Failure to include social housing in the government’s upcoming ‘levelling up’ plan may escalate the housing emergency in Burnley, a new report by Shelter warns today.

By John Deehan
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 8:02 am

The leading homelessness and housing charity is calling for a commitment from the government to build more social housing to ensure that local people benefit from levelling up plans in their area.

The new report, Levelling Up with Social Housing, looks at the housing emergency through three locations which lack affordable housing: Burnley, Plymouth and Sheffield. It shows 67% of private renters in Burnley now rely on housing benefit to pay their rent, up from 57% before the pandemic.

It comes as Burnley’s renters are under more intense pressure than ever this winter owing to soaring fuel costs, the £20 cut to Universal Credit and shorter notice periods.

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Leading housing and homelessness charity Shelter has chosen Burnley as one of three locations for a new report exploring the housing emergency.

The report details how Burnley is already in the top 15 local authorities for fuel poverty in the country, meaning many are vulnerable to not affording their rent if they lose their job after Covid.

Shelter warns that as the government is pouring billions into new projects such as roads, train stations and town centres through its levelling up agenda, there is a risk that housing costs in these areas will also increase. With this, people who are already struggling to cover their living costs will be priced out of their areas, ultimately leading to a rise in homelessness.

There are currently 1,404 households on the social housing waiting list in Burnley, however only 84 social homes have been built in the town in total since 2010-11.

The report says Burnley has many run down private sector homes that could be repurposed as social housing. And at the other end of the scale, Shelter Lancashire is being approached by homeowners forced to sell up as they cannot afford upkeep.

Shelter is urging Michael Gove, the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to take action to ensure that local people will benefit from levelling up. It’s calling for investment in infrastructure to be matched pound for pound with investment in social housing under the levelling up agenda.