'Astronomical' rent prices blamed as homelessness rises in Wakefield

The number of households being forced into temporary accommodation in Wakefield went up between December and March.
The number of households being forced into temporary accommodation in Wakefield went up between December and March.

"Astronomical" rent hikes have been blamed for increasing homelessness in the Wakefield district.

The number of households (single people and families) living in temporary accommodation in the area rose from 181 to 210 between December 2018 and March 2019.

Big rent hikes, coupled with benefit cuts, have been blamed for the problem. Picture courtesy of Wakefield Council.

Big rent hikes, coupled with benefit cuts, have been blamed for the problem. Picture courtesy of Wakefield Council.

A council report said that difficulties finding new homes for people had contributed to the problem.

But speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, Wakefield East councillor Olivia Rowley said prices for tenants in the private sector had spiralled to unaffordable levels.

She said: "The situation in my ward is that benefits have been frozen or cut, at the same time rents are rising astronomically.

"Therefore it's no wonder that there's homelessness. We then have a duty as a local authority to help with that.

Wakefield East councillor Olivia Rowley.

Wakefield East councillor Olivia Rowley.

"It's completely unacceptable, and not good for Wakefield."

Elected members were told that the council was trying to increase the amount of support offered to those facing homelessness.

But councillors across the district expressed fears that vulnerable families were being forced into packed houses with poor standards.

Wakefield North councillor Betty Rhodes said: "I have concerns about the numbers of 'rooms to let signs' I see outside houses.

"But I'm worried about standards and quality that is being offered in these rooms to let.

"Of course it's welcome for people on the streets (that shelter is being offered), but at the same time we want to make sure that the standard that's being offered to these people is the same standard that we'd want for ourselves and our families."

Wakefield Council does have an accreditation scheme for landlords in the area, but that is run on a voluntary basis.

Coun Rowley said that the authority had done "really good work" in improving standards among landlords, but added: "My worry is the ones that haven't been identified as houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) and I think that's the concern.

"They're often in a bad state of repair and it's simply not good enough.

"What we need is an ability to prosecute further."

Local Democracy Reporting Service