FAILURE to include social housing in the Government’s ‘levelling up’ plan may escalate the housing emergency in Burnley, a new report warns.

The leading homelessness and housing charity Shelter - who prepared the report - is calling for a commitment from the government to build more social housing to ensure that local people benefit from levelling up plans in their area.

The new report, 'Levelling Up with Social Housing', looks at the housing emergency through three locations which lack affordable housing - Burnley, Plymouth and Sheffield.

It shows 67 per cent of private renters in Burnley now rely on housing benefit to pay their rent, up from 57 per cent before the pandemic.

This comes as Burnley’s renters are said to be under more intense pressure than ever this winter, owing to soaring fuel costs, the £20 cut to Universal Credit and shorter notice periods.

The report details how Burnley is already in the top 15 local authorities for fuel poverty in the country, meaning many are vulnerable to not affording their rent if they lose their job after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shelter warns that as the government is pouring billions into new projects such as roads, train stations and town centres through its levelling up agenda, there is a 'risk' that housing costs in these areas will also increase.

With this, people who are already struggling to cover their living costs will be priced out of their areas, ultimately leading to a 'rise in homelessness'.

There are currently 1,404 households on the social housing waiting list in Burnley, however only 84 social homes have been built in the town in total since 2010-11.

The report says Burnley has many run down private sector homes that could be repurposed as social housing. And at the other end of the scale, Shelter Lancashire is being approached by homeowners forced to sell up as they cannot afford upkeep.

Shelter is urging Michael Gove, the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to take action to ensure that local people will benefit from levelling up.

It’s calling for investment in infrastructure to be matched pound for pound with investment in social housing under the levelling up agenda.

A man known as Spike lives with his 19-year-old son in a tiny cramped flat in Burnley. With no way out, the lack of space is severely damaging to their mental and physical health.

Spike claims housing benefit, but it hasn’t helped them find the home they need.

The homes Spike can afford aren’t fit to live in, and all the decent ones are simply too expensive. 

He told Shelter: "I've got no space to put anything, so the clothes are everywhere. It just gets on top of you – and gets you down. I’m 66 now and we have no privacy whatsoever.

"My son has the front room and I just sit in the kitchen until I go to bed at night. It’s not fair on either of us.

"It’s hard to get a two-bed place. They go quickly and the cost is too high. I’m coming up to retirement and I really fear for my future. 

"If the government came and said we’re going to build a lot of social housing, I’d be pleased. It might help me. I don’t think they charge as much – and there’s more security for me and my son."

Emma Garner, hub manager at Shelter Lancashire, said: "We believe a safe home is a human right, but the pain and desperation our frontline staff see every day shows this is still a long way off. Maintenance and upkeep has become unaffordable in Burnley.

"We’re seeing homeowners facing homelessness or being forced to sell their property.

"At the root of this crisis is decades of failure to invest in the good quality social homes our local community so obviously needs - meaning there are too many people chasing too few homes.

"What the government needs to know about ‘Levelling Up’ is that without a clear commitment to building social housing specifically, this may prove impossible.

"You cannot solve the housing emergency without building decent homes people can afford to live in.

"A tangible improvement in people’s housing situation would significantly boost living standards, increase opportunities and truly represent levelling up."