BOROUGH residents face waits for as long as six years to get a social housing property suitable for their needs, figures have shown.

High and medium priority social housing applicants in Test Valley on average waited between one and six years to secure a property which met their needs in the 2016/17 financial year.

Average waiting times for applicants in the high and medium bands of the choice-based lettings scheme, Hampshire Home Choice (HHC), varied from one year and three months to as much as six years and one month.

The length of time applicants waited varied on their priority level and what type of property the household required, with the longest waiting time for two-bedroom houses.

The data came from a HCC sub-regional system, managed by councils such as Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC).

TVBC housing portfolio holder, Councillor Phil Bundy said: “We prevent at least 500 households from becoming homeless every year and in addition, take 400-500 households a year off the register.

“We receive at least 80-100 new applications per month for the housing register, so the numbers on the register never really decrease. This is all achieved in a housing market where there is a severe shortage of supply of the right type of accommodation and very high rents.

“We encourage people to try and take responsibility for their own housing situation, looking at avenues and choices they might not have historically thought of and to do this in partnership with other agencies, not just the local authority.”

Across neighbouring Hampshire boroughs that use HHC, similar waiting times were also seen by East Hampshire District Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, Havant Borough Council and Winchester City Council.

There are 2,006 Test Valley households listed on the register who can bid for houses which suit their needs and in an area in which they have a connection to.

One HHC user told the Advertiser that she was “one of the lucky ones” after she secured a two-bedroom bungalow in five months.

Kelly and Steve Compton updated their circumstances with the council in July following advice from doctors that Mr Compton’s chronic back issue made it a necessity for the couple to change their living situation.

The Over Wallop couple had their priority level changed and won a bid on a property in November after the initial winner turned it down.

Mrs Compton said: “I have been really lucky but I have really put up a fight.When we were in Band 3 [the medium priority band], we were told we could be waiting up to five years for a house.”

“Steve has a chronic back issue and also depression and anxiety which was being exacerbated due to thought of living uncomfortably for another three to six years.”

“If the first applicant hadn’t turned down the house we would still be waiting - but it’s not just Test Valley, it’s all over really.”

Across Test Valley, 239 homes have been allocated for applicants to bid on since June this year, 163 of which were in Andover. Since June, 454 households joined the register and 266 were taken off the list.

Another registered HHC household, a disabled mother and her family, this month took out a private loan and used her father as a guarantor to secure a temporary private-rented home to put an end to months of uncertainty.

Michelle Bradbury, her husband and two children had been alternating from Air B&Bs to sleeping on the floor of her mother’s one-bedroom bungalow since the summer while trying to bid on suitable homes with no success.

She said: “I was here, there and everywhere to keep a roof over our heads. My son kept asking me ‘when are we going to get our forever home?’ But now we have a roof over our heads and that’s the most important thing for now.”

Chairman of North West Hampshire Labour party and Andover town councillor Andy Fitchet said: “Housing is a necessity not a privilege. I see these staggering numbers of people in our community waiting for housing or adequate housing and it is scandalous.

“I see Cllr Bundy’s comments that people are ‘encouraged to take responsibility’ for their own housing situation, I would suggest to him that most of them are. If you are earning minimum wage, even as a couple, you simply cannot afford to buy a house or easily privately rent in our area as prices are incredibly high – at least £800pcm for a three-bed family home.

“We need to start building proper council houses again. TVBC has the authority to do it and the ability to do it.”

“We need to stop allowing the market to make having adequate housing a privilege and start viewing housing once again as a necessity for life.”