THERE has been a dramatic increase in families and young people being made homeless as the Bridgwater area faces an unprecedented housing crisis.

Startling figures in a report compiled by Sedgemoor District Council housing advice manager, Jerry Milton, reveals tenants are being driven out of the private sector - coinciding with the arrival of Hinkley workers - and there is not enough social housing to accommodate them.

On April 1, there were at least 1,900 people on the housing register, but between April 2016 and March 2017, only 707 properties were advertised in Sedgemoor.

There were 884 people on the housing register for a one-bedroom flat but only 224 advertised. 

Mr Milton says this demonstrates a shortage of affordable properties, particularly for young people.

“Those driven out of the private sector because of high rents do not have the option of securing more affordable housing through the social sector,” Mr Milton said

The report also highlights a significant increase in number of homeless applications in the past two years.

“The increase in homelessness, particularly among single people is particularly concerning as it coincides with workers arriving as part of the Hinkley Point development, and there is a shortage of social housing for those requiring one bedroom,” Mr Milton said.

The statistics show that in 2014/15 there were 25 single male homeless applicants but in 2016/17 this had more than doubled to 53. The number of single mothers who found themselves homeless also increased, from 27 in 2014/15 to 37 this past year.

Overall between 2013 and 2015, there were 198 homeless applicants, but from 2015 to 2017 this number rose to 290.

Mr Milton said: “The reasons for homelessness broadly remain the same every year, however the loss of privately rented accommodation is becoming an increasing cause of homelessness. Relationship breakdown is more likely as people are experiencing severe financial pressures.

“We need to work with developers so that more one-bedroom housing is created, not blocks of flats but scattered across the area to help address the shortfall.”

One family has spoken of their experience in Bridgwater, having being given two months’ notice to leave the property they rented.

“We are a family of four. Our son who is five goes to St Joseph’s School and our three-year-old is with a child-minder. We were given two months’ notice by our landlord,” the tenant said.

“We asked if there could be any leeway so as not to disrupt the the last half term of school, but were told ‘No’. We also asked if we could have our deposit released early to help us to secure another place to live and didn’t get any answer. 

“The general understanding from people living nearby is that this is caused by unscrupulous letting agents and landlords looking to make a ‘fast buck’ from Hinkley workers. One was even advised to rent rooms to Hinkley workers and was told that she could get £100-£200 per week. We live in a three-bedroom house, two double rooms and one single, which might now be worth £500 plus per week. 

“How can a family with two small children compete with that?”

Cllr Leigh Redman said: “The fact that some greedy landlords appear to be serving notice on good tenants in an attempt to gain from the Hinkley project is frustrating to say the least. 

“Local councillors have been commenting on this issue for months and highlighted this as a possible occurrence some years ago. 

“We have warned the council many times; evicting good tenants in an attempt to gain financially is wrong and we need to fight this at every stage.”