COVENTRY is in desperate need of more social housing for families spread across the city, a leading councillor claims.
Ed Ruane’s renewed call to address a chronic shortfall in affordable housing comes amid controversy over council plans to build on the green belt.
He says data shows there is a need for a “greater range” of social housing with affordable rents, including larger three and four bedroom homes for bigger families.
The cabinet member for children and young people says more security of tenure, lower rents and green spaces would enable parents to “do more with their families” and “help all children enjoy a happy, healthy family life.”
Coalition government welfare changes have included capping the number of years in tenancy agreements, and cutting benefits to enourage tenants to move out of homes considered too large for them.
Coun Ruane points to the 2011 Census showing the number of Coventry households renting from private landlords doubled in 10 years to 20 per cent, above the national average of 16.8 per cent.
The number of owner-occupying family and single person households dropped by nearly a quarter to 31 per cent.
He said: “These statistics reinforce the challenges we know we face as a city when it comes to housing. Families are being priced out by ever increasing rents that are now at a record high.
“There is a real need for more housing in the city and that includes social housing. We know child poverty is on the increase and poor living conditions is a major factor, with children growing up in poor and overcrowded housing conditions, where there are damp and mouldy bedrooms and three or four people sharing a bed or a parent having to sleep on the sofa so that their child can sleep in the bed.
“There are 14,000 people on the Coventry Homefinder waiting list, which shows there is a real shortage of family-sized homes.
“Creating more social housing so people can better afford to bring up their children will benefit the whole city and reduce costs elsewhere such as in health services.”
Coventry’s birth rate has also shot up by 18 per cent in the last 10 years. More than half of those on the Homefinder register request two or more bedroom housing association homes.
Coun Ruane adds there are more than 500 families living in overcrowded conditions who need at least one more bedroom to have a decent quality of life.
During the past year, only 36 housing association homes with four or more bedrooms became available to rent, and 395 three bedroom homes.
Green belt protesters and many residents around the city are lining up a major battle against Coventry City Council’s aspirations to build up to 36,000 new homes by 2031, including on 10 per cent of the green belt – to become a “top ten city”.
Labour council leaders had previously pledged to voters there would be no housebuilding on the greenbelt, and campaigners say there is no evidence of a jobs-led need for such rapid housing growth.
Coun Ruane said: “Social housing needs to be in a variety of areas around the city to avoid certain areas becoming too overcrowded, which in turn can lead to problems with the environment, such as pollution.
“Many brownfield sites that are reclaimed are small and can be expensive to bring back into use, so developers build on small plots with no gardens, or create buildings with several storeys.
“You have to look at the wider environment when bringing up children.
“These properties tend to have no gardens and they aren’t favoured by families. The lack of open space and gardens is storing up health and social problems for the children growing up there in years to come.”