More than 5,000 people are now on waiting lists for social housing in the county—with only 15 homes becoming available each week!

This figure is set to rise as the recession digs in, with redundancies and short-time work inevitably leading to house repossessions and homelessness.

Councillors are admitting that we are in a ‘grim’ situation, admitting that they are not doing much to deal with the problem.

Of the target 250 houses to be built in Herefordshire each year, only 35% are to be ‘affordable accommodation’, but even these will be unaffordable to a lot of Herefordshire people. Renting is now becoming a popular option but would-be tenants run the risk of poor standards and high prices from private landlords. The council’s inability to provide a basic human need to their electorate shows the poor deal we are getting.

Squatting is making a reappearance across the country as more and more people are finding themselves homeless. The media often portray squatters as dirty, drug addicted ‘scroungers’, but the truth is that many are ordinary people that have taken the housing problem into their own hands.

In the 1950s, Britain had thousands of squatters and homeless families who reacted to the governments failings by living in disused military barracks. Similar situations arose in the 1980s with unemployment and the economic crisis hitting many working class people hard. Squatting is certainly an option, with an estimated one million empty properties across Britain—enough to house the homeless population five times over!

Unfortunately for many people living in rented accommodation, some landlords will take advantage of the vulnerable situation many tenants find themselves in. Getting yourself in a situation where you are being exploited or mistreated by a landlord can be a terrible experience. But by letting others know of your situation, you may find that they have experience of a similar situation and may be able to help. The key to overcoming problems like these is sticking together and not feeling intimidated or alone. Get friends or family together and put pressure on the landlord to make improvements or let them know what you are entitled to!

A situation like this has no single solution and if the council continue with their failure to act then change will be slow. Most importantly more houses need to be built now. Demand for social housing is going to increase dramatically over the next 12 months and we are already in an appalling situation. At their current rate, it will take the council more than six and half years to house everyone currently on their waiting lists for a new home; nothing short of a disgrace!

Know your rights

• Find out your rights as a tenant by visiting http://www.adviceguide.org.uk

• Get in touch with your stories of Herefordshire’s housing madness. Email us at kay.bulstreet [at] hotmail.co.uk

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