A Cardiff mother of four was told she may be on the housing transfer waiting list for a total of 12 years, after the council introduced a new prioritising scheme.
Marcia Cowell, 32, of Adamscroft Place, Adamsdown, lives with her husband and four children in a two bedroom house and joined the waiting list five years ago. But she was recently told she may have to wait another six or seven years to move home.
This comes after the council changed the way it prioritises people on the waiting list, with priority being given to those deemed to have the greatest need.
In the two bedroom house, Mrs Cowell’s two daughters, aged 15 and four, share a room with a bunk bed. And her twin sons, aged two, sleep in their mother’s room with her husband, Gareth, 40, sleeping on the sofa.
Mrs Cowell said: “My husband has slept on the sofa for nearly three years because he snores, which keeps the boys awake.
“My girls share one of the rooms but this means that my eldest has no space of her own for studying or having friends over. She has no private time whatsoever.”
The house also has little space for storage or play areas for the children.
“My possessions are in boxes on the stairs because I have nowhere to display them and this makes the stairs quite dangerous, especially in the event of an emergency,” Mrs Cowell said.
“I can’t put anything on show. Wedding photos and pictures of the kids growing up have to be stored away,” she said.
Mrs Cowell also has concerns for her children’s health. She said: “The house is full of damp and condensation, and I have even had a doctor’s letter stating concerns for the children’s health.
“My health visitor has written emergency referrals as well because she feels the space the children have to play in is inadequate and will hinder their development.”
In the old system, people on the waiting list were allocated points based on a number of factors such as their time on the list, connection to Cardiff, medical reasons and overcrowding.
But the council’s new housing allocation scheme has changed this. In their press response to the new housing allocation scheme, Cardiff council said: “The new scheme will ensure that those applicants in the greatest housing need are helped first.
“Over recent years there has been an increase in demand for social housing in the city. There are approximately 11,000 applicants currently registered on the waiting list and a further 175 new applications are received each week.
“While demand is increasing the availability of properties to let has diminished in recent years, with only 1,662 social lets in 2013/14 compared with 2,070 in 2009/10 and a reduction in the amount of new social housing being built.”
Mrs Cowell is banded under the B2 category, meaning she is not top of the priority list as she is deemed to be only one bedroom short of an adequate-sized house.
Before the new system was introduced, Mrs Cowell felt she was close to moving home. She said: “I made a point of regularly calling them to find out what was happening with my application and with each call I was told that I would probably be moved any day as I was very near the top, even though they couldn’t give me exact details.”
“But I was sent a form by the housing association last year asking if I still wanted to be on the council list.
“There was an issue with the form being put back on the system and it took five months to go on the system, so my claim was not live during that time.”
Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, who has written to the council in support of Mrs Cowell’s case, said: “There are lots of very unhappy people in Cardiff and loads of people are getting in touch with me.
“I have written to the council and asked them to look again at her case, particularly the level of overcrowding and the age of her children.
“To be fair to the council, they have gone through their processes the right way, but clearly for Mrs Cowell the result is not what she wants.”
Susan Elsmore, Cardiff council’s cabinet member for health, housing and wellbeing, said: “I am not aware of particular issues in Adamsdown. I cannot comment on individual cases.”