THE shortage of affordable homes in the North Devon area is reflected in the plight of one young Barnstaple family, who are asking if they will ever get to the top of the social housing ladder. Emma Slade, 30, told the Gazette that she and partner Paul Mc

THE shortage of affordable homes in the North Devon area is reflected in the plight of one young Barnstaple family, who are asking if they will ever get to the top of the social housing ladder.

Emma Slade, 30, told the Gazette that she and partner Paul McCarthy, 35, have been on the waiting list for 10 years.

They and their three children, one of whom has special needs, have to leave their present private rented home as it is being put up for sale. But their continuing bids for social housing have all been turned down, Emma told the Gazette.

"We have been told that we have no chance of a council house and must find other private accommodation. My eight-year-old Bradley has severe learning difficulties and behavioural problems and does not sleep well at night. He needs my constant supervision, so sleeps with me while Paul has to sleep downstairs. Paul needs his sleep as he has to go to work and so do my other children, who go to school and playschool. They are all affected by this. We also have to have a commode for Bradley in the daytime as there is no downstairs toilet.

"We have been on the housing list for 10 years and have been told that we are near the top, but we hear of other people getting homes who do not seem to have as great a need as ours. We feel local people should be given greater priority for local houses.

"It is so frustrating. Our present home has been put up for sale and the property agents want to know when we will get out. But we do not know. With the boys aged eight and 10 and our daughter aged three, we really need a four-bedroom house, but would consider a three bedroom if it was adaptable.

"We have been told to look for private accommodation. But Paul's work is only part-time as there are times when I need him at home to help with Bradley, so we are on benefits, and many landlords do not like this. We can't help it. If things weren't the way they are, we would both be out working.

"I am afraid we might end up in bed and breakfast or other temporary accommodation as Bradley's condition means he does not cope well with changes."

Councillor Brian Moores, North Devon District Council's Lead Member for Housing, said: "Affordable housing is, and will remain, a top priority for North Devon Council and we are working hard to increase delivery of such homes. In fact, in 2008/09, we delivered the highest amount of affordable housing since 1991.

"Despite this, it does not change the fact that there are far more people seeking a council or housing association home than there are homes available. In North Devon we have around 200 vacancies every year. That is compared to more than 2,500 people who are on the housing register here.

"In terms of how we allocate housing, this is done by bidding for available homes through Devon Home Choice. This is a choice-based lettings scheme, involving all ten local authorities in Devon and housing associations in the county.

"We do understand that this process can be very lengthy for many people, some may never be successful and have to look for alternative private housing options. However, from all of the bids that are received for a property, the successful person or family will be the one who is most in need. This takes into account whether they are the highest priority as well as how long they have been waiting."

Information about the service can be found on www.devonhomechoice.com

People with concerns or questions about housing or homelessness issues are also invited to contact North Devon District Council's Housing Options service on (01271) 388870 or call and see them.