One in 400 households in the county is now categorised as homeless, according to Shropshire Council’s new draft housing strategy which sets out its housing aims for the next five years. The figure has risen by almost a quarter in the last two years.
But while increasing numbers of people are forced onto the streets or put up in temporary accommodation, more than 1,700 properties have been left empty for more than six months – 600 of which have been derelict for at least two years.
The new housing strategy will be considered by the council’s cabinet next week ahead of a planned six-week public consultation before it is finalised.
It details six objectives for the period 2020 to 2025, including working to “reduce and prevent households from becoming homeless” and providing more affordable homes to combat rising rents and house prices.
The document says: “Unfortunately, since 2013-14 rates of homelessness have generally continued to increase in Shropshire, with a significant increase of 24.5 per cent in the last two years.
“Rates remain below the level for 2010-11. This rise in the number of homeless households parallels with rising house prices in Shropshire.”
It adds that a significant rise in the number of families placed in temporary accommodation “suggests finding suitable settled housing for the rising number households accepted as homeless and in priority need in Shropshire has become more challenging”.
In line with the new strategy, the council will work with owners of empty properties to bring them back into use, and will use enforcement powers if necessary.
It says: “Empty homes are a recognised as a wasted resource, depriving people of a home and contributing to the need for more housing.
“It is only when properties stay empty longer than six months without any obvious signs of renovation or rental that they become true empty homes.
“They are a blight on local communities and may prevent investment in the area.”
The strategy also highlights the problem of rising house prices and rental costs. In Shrewsbury, the average house price is 6.7 times the average household income, putting them out of reach of many would-be buyers as mortgage providers will generally only lend up to four times household income. In some areas there is even more disparity, with homes in Church Stretton costing 8.2 times the average earnings.
The draft strategy says: “There are more than 5,000 households on the housing register requiring affordable housing.
“The number of new affordable homes over the last five years has averaged at 343 per year. This is significantly below the number of homes required.”