Charities warn of social housing emergency in West Yorkshire with tens of thousands on waiting list

Joanne Kirkland and her daughter Ruby were served with an eviction notice from their privately rented home in Leeds due to the owner selling up - they have been waiting for more than a year on the council's social housing register.

Charities are warning that West Yorkshire is in the grips of a social housing emergency, with more than 90,000 households on a waiting list, including a mother from Leeds who says herself - and her six-year-old daughter - could be homeless in five days.

Joanne Kirkland and her daughter Ruby were served with an eviction notice from their privately rented home in Leeds due to the owner selling up - they have been waiting for more than a year on the council's social housing register.

The number of families housed in temporary emergency accommodation - where no suitable homes can be found by the council - rose to more than 95,000 in the UK last year. 

Joanne has been offered a high rise flat, but her doctor says this is unsuitable due to osteoarthritis.

Joanne said: "All they keep saying to me is there are people worse off than you. But I keep saying to them I'm not ringing for them, I'm ringing for us. I've not slept for ages - how you would imagine when you're due to be homeless in six days with a six-year-old.''

The latest figures from June this year show that in Leeds, just over 26,000 households are waiting to find a suitable home. Out of these, more than 7,000 are classed as a 'reasonable preference category' - like Joanne, they need to move urgently.

Charities are demanding action over soaring house prices and rents which are pricing more families out of the market. 

In central Leeds, one charity is attempting to fill the gap between supply and demand. Latch works with the council to buy up some of the 4,000 derelict properties in Leeds - renovating them, then providing homes for people on the council's priority list.

The charity's calling for more investment in empty properties and the abolition of the 'right to buy' scheme, which they say reduces the social housing available.

James Hartley from Latch said: ''I've seen people's lives transformed by the work we do - and provision of a decent home is a foundation for change in all other aspects of life. But yeah - more needs to be done and we need some solutions to that.''

On eviction day, Joanne and Ruby can apply for the council's emergency temporary accommodation, but as that means giving away all their furniture and their dog, they are hoping it doesn't come to that.

In a statement, a Leeds City Council spokesperson said: The council’s housing options service carries out full housing needs assessments to ensure that customers are given the correct priority and offers advice to any applicant who needs this. 

"We have made a number of improvements to the bidding system over recent years which have meant that customers are able to see their bidding position for each bid placed and increased the number of bids that customers can make from three to six each week.  We also offer an assisted bidding service for customers. 

"However, with a reducing supply of council homes, lower levels of tenancy turnover and an increase in the number of applications on the register this is contributing towards increased rehousing times but we are doing everything we can to make the system as effective as possible.”

And a government spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government, said: "We are building more social housing taking action to reduce waiting lists, which have fallen by almost 600,000 households since 2010, but we must go further, so we're investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over the next five years - the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade."