5000 families in need: Shortage of affordable homes in Norwich prompts plea to housing minister

A look around Norwich's 'greenest' council houses under construction at Hansard Close. Left to right

A look around Norwich's 'greenest' council houses under construction at Hansard Close. Left to right, site manager Dave Clarke, councillor Gail Harris and councillor Vivien Thomas. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

More homes need to be built in Norwich because more than 5,000 people and families are in need of affordable housing, council leaders have warned.

Norwich City Council leaders on Tuesday night revealed £220,000 has been spent this year on temporary accommodation to stop people being homeless.

And they called for the government to give the authority more powers to help provide homes.

The government recently published a housing white paper entitled 'Fixing our broken housing market'.

But Gail Harris, deputy leader at City Hall and cabinet member for housing, said it would not help solve the pressures in the city.

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She said at any one time Norwich has up to 250 'roofless people' - including people sleeping on sofas and up to 35 rough sleeping.

The councillor pointed out there are 350 in hostels and up to 800 getting support to keep their housing.

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She said, this year, the council has spent £220,000 on temporary accommodation for homeless households - with 80 people in temporary accommodation at any one time.

And she said there are 4,744 people on the Home Options register, waiting for housing.

She called for the government to allow the council to keep right to buy receipts - from the sale of council homes - rather than having to hand them over within three years.

And Mrs Harris called for a relaxation on how much councils are allowed to borrow to build houses.

She said: 'We know our local demands and the local housing market - we should be given more control to do something about it.'

Mrs Harris said recent Norfolk County Council cuts - including £4.5m being taken from a budget used to commission services from charities and housing providers - was 'quite likely' to 'see increased numbers of people losing their accommodation and then perhaps sleeping rough on the streets'.

She said the council would like more money to develop services for rough sleepers, such as a US scheme called Housing First.

That scheme aims to stop rough sleeping by getting homeless people into permanent housing to make it more likely that issues such as drug addiction, alcohol abuse and mental illness can be tackled.

The council agreed a motion calling for the government to do more and for housing minister Gavin Barwell to visit the city.

James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, backed the motion, but said the council should also make more use of the powers it does have, such as compulsory purchase powers.

He said: 'I do feel this council should use existing power to take action at sites, such as the Earl of Leicester pub, so developers will landbank at their peril'.

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