An investigation revealed Birmingham City Council receives an alarming 500 applications to join the housing register each week.
Demand for council houses is rising in the city, and an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the authority struggling to process applications quickly.
During the investigation, Birmingham City Council – the largest in Europe – explained that it accepts 500 applications a week to join its housing register. Of the applications almost half will be eligible to join, meaning 225 families are added to its list each week.
One family claimed to have taken six months to the council to assess their housing situation.
Ideally, councils should consider applications within six weeks. However, BCC currently takes an average of 22 weeks to do so.
Because of the delay, the council had to reinstate the family’s position on the waiting list until the day they applied, meaning they were higher on the priority list, but it didn’t happen.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “We understand that many council housing departments are under a lot of pressure because demand exceeds the availability of social housing, and we know that in some areas that this unprecedented demand creates a backlog.
“Councils need to make sure they provide the right advice at the right time to families to try to prevent families from becoming homeless, or provide advice and support on other housing solutions they can use.
“While we cannot say that this family has been hurt by the council’s delay in dealing with applications, we are concerned that possibly thousands more families in the city could.
“I welcome the steps the council has already taken to address these issues, and its willing agreement with our recommendations to improve its services.”
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said the report highlighted the pressure under authority in meeting the housing needs of residents.
“We apologize to the complainant and will ensure that the ombudsman’s recommendations are fully implemented,” the BCC spokesperson said.
“This case highlights the pressure under Birmingham City Council in seeking to meet the housing needs of our citizens.
“We have already taken steps, along with additional resources, to address the time spent reviewing housing register applications.
“We are pleased to say that waiting times have been reduced, and there is a plan in place that will put them in accordance with our service standards.”
Have you been affected by the council’s delay in dealing with housing applications? Do you have a housing story you’d like to share? E-mail email@example.com.
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