Published: 06:00, 03 September 2020
| Updated: 08:32, 03 September 2020
Thousands of people are waiting to be rehomed by local authorities in Kent and, for some, the wait has been considerably longer than others.
One household in Thanet has been hoping the right property comes up for a whopping 32 years.
While that is the longest wait in the county, others have faced similar delays of many years in finding their des res, according to figures acquired by a KentOnline Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
In Thanet , as of July, there were 1,936 people on the waiting list for a council property - the second biggest number in Kent.
The area with the highest number of people on the waiting list this July was Canterbury , with 2,275.
Incorporating Whitstable and Herne Bay, it also has the largest population of those registered as homeless, with 484. Next highest is Maidstone with 334.
Canterbury City Council spokesman Leo Whitlock said there had been a surge in demand for housing due to coronavirus.
“When lockdown was imposed, we saw a 75% increase in the number of people applying to be on the waiting list for all sorts of reasons which ranged from rents becoming unaffordable, changing mental health needs and the fact the hidden homeless, like people sofa surfing, needed to make different arrangements to comply with the restrictions," he said.
“We always aim to help people before they fall into homelessness and putting those at risk of losing their place to live on the waiting list early is one way to do this.”
To address the problem, the authority has been working with landlords to resolve issues with tenants before eviction becomes an option, its single person homelessness worker helps those on the edge of homelessness and it has been working with prisons to ensure offenders have somewhere to go when released.
It is also working hard to make more homes available. "We have created 61 homes for social rent using former student accommodation in Parham Road, Canterbury , and are building new homes at Kingsmead Field in Canterbury and Beach Street in Herne Bay," added Mr Whitlock.
“A total of 189 affordable homes will also be built on the Canterbury Riverside site.”
While it is widely accepted we are in the middle of a housing crisis, the total number of people waiting for a council property in Kent totals 17,916, and that is a drop from 19,783 in 2017 - which does not include figures for Medway .
Three years ago, Gravesham was top of the pile, with 3,588 people wanting to be rehoused, compared to 1,729 this July - a massive improvement of 1,859.
Canterbury was second with 2,743, nearly 500 more than its current figure and a reflection of the work that has been done to bring the number down.
County-wide, just three of the 12 districts and boroughs have seen their housing lists grow since 2017: Maidstone (up 385 from 603 to 988), Swale (up 279 from 1,077 to 1,356) and Tonbridge and Malling (up 197 from 1,060 to 1,257).
Work continues in all areas to tackle the problem of homelessness.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, local authorities were tasked with putting a roof over the head of as many rough sleepers as possible to help protect them from the virus, with emergency funding made available by the Government.
In Canterbury, 57 people who had been sleeping on the streets were provided with a temporary home by the city council at a Travelodge . While some were evicted for breaking the rules, others made the most of the chance and have secured new permanent homes .
And Ashford Borough Council is among the authorities to have invested in converting properties to house homeless people .
Chris Thomas, PR and communications co-ordinator for Porchlight, a charity supporting homeless people across Kent, warned the pandemic could result in more people losing their homes in the near future.
He added: "We absolutely need more social housing. It's a massive problem, especially here in the south east. The rents are too high, people cannot afford to live.
"People who are in receipt of benefits designed to help them are discovering benefits do not cover the basic cost of living.
"The only solution we can see is for the government to provide more social housing so people can live somewhere they can afford and start to put down roots."
Nationally, the shortage of homes is estimated to be more than one million.
Local authorities have to set targets for the amount of affordable homes that need to be built in their areas but few successfully meet them.
In July, it was revealed that Maidstone Borough Council had failed to hit its target, falling short by 800 over eight years .
There is, however, hope. Swale council is among the authorities to have made tackling the lack of affordable homes one of its main priorities, with £10million to be made available to facilitate the building of social and affordable homes .
And in Gravesham, permission has been granted for 224 affordable homes as part of the Ebbsfleet Garden City development.
But, for many, the wait for a suitable home continues.
Anyone struggling with housing can access help and advice by visiting porchlight.org.uk