More than 180 West Suffolk residents in affordable homes looking to downsize

West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
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More than 180 West Suffolk residents in affordable housing are on a waiting list seeking smaller homes, council bosses have revealed.

In St Edmundsbury, 122 people are waiting to downsize with another 60 in Forest Heath.

The figures were revealed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council following a request by the Bury Free Press.

The authority says it recognises the need for more affordable housing and is working with developers and registered providers.

Meanwhile, Haverbury Housing Partnership, the main affordable housing provider in St Edmundsbury, has disclosed the number of residents hit by the spare room subsidy or ‘bedroom tax’ in rent arrears.

The housing association says it is closely monitoring 330 households out of its 6,000 properties affected by the subsidy. Arrears for those affected increased from 2.28 per cent on March 24 to 2.49 per cent on June 30 but reduced from 2.68 per cent on April 1 2013 to 2.49 per cent on June 30 2014.

Overall Havebury’s rent arrears, net of housing benefit stands at 1.16 per cent which is a year on year reduction.

Green Borough Cllr Julia Wakelam said there is ‘an acute lack of affordable housing of the right size’ in the St Edmundsbury area.

She said: “We’re a low wage area with high rents. Many people need access to affordable and social housing.”

Asked about the figures of those in arrears, Cllr Wakelam added: “What about the people who are just struggling. Most people don’t want to fall into arrears because they know that you would face eviction.”

Anita Jones, head of housing at Havebury, said: “We carefully monitor those tenants affected by welfare reform and inparticular the spare bedroom subsidy.”

She said many are finding ways to make the additional payments but Havebury offers advice for those unable to make the shortfall.

She added they will support tenants who wish to move through mutual exchange while looking to create more one and two bedroom homes.

Cllr Anne Gower, the borough’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We recognise there is a need for more smaller properties and we are already working with developers and registered providers on bringing forward the correct mix of properties on new housing schemes.”

She said their West Suffolk Housing Strategy outlines options to increase affordable housing.