A HOUSING boss fears the creation of ‘wilderness areas’ in South Tyneside after a sharp rise in tenants ending their council tenancies.
New figures show that between April and July this year, 573 tenants handed back their keys – up 139 on the same period last year.
The worrying trend that has been attributed, in part, to the pressure council house tenants are facing from Government welfare reforms – particularly the ‘bedroom tax’ which is forcing some to downsize.
Research found that 36 per cent of tenants had given up their tenancies because their properties were now too large.
No particular area across the borough has seen a particular rise in terminations – although Jarrow wards have been hit badly.
Coun Eddie McAtominey, Labour chairman of the council’s Housing Performance Panel, said: “It is disturbing, to say the least. We’re going to be left with a surplus of three-bedroom houses. These houses will only be available to those who can afford to pay.
“That’s not what social housing was established for. It’s a very sad situation.”
Labour’s Jim Foreman, the council’s lead member for housing and transport, said: “It’s frightening, not just disturbing. We could end up with little wilderness areas where people won’t be able to live.
“I’m glad Labour has pledged to get rid of the bedroom tax.”
Coun Foreman said it may be time to reverse a ‘downsizing’ policy that had been adopted by the council in recent years.
This involved older people in three-bedroom homes moving into smaller properties to provide larger properties for families.
He said: “People over 62 are not affected by these welfare reforms. People in their sixties have been downsizing for years.
“There is an opportunity here for them to move back into these three-bedroom properties.”
But Coun McAtominey argued against a “knee-jerk reaction” and to wait instead for Labour to repeal the welfare reforms in 20 months’ time – if they win the next general election.
n Have you ended your council tenancy? Ring the Gazette news desk on 427 4858.