DELAYS to register for housing need in Dorset means that it is now taking up to five months – with what Dorset Council says is a “significant backlog” of applications.

A council spokesperson said: "If they are homeless immediately, we would action their case. We prioritise cases and it may take a few working days when we are really busy for those who have housing issues or where homelessness is not immediate or imminent.

"If they ring us, our service is immediate."

Dorset Council say there are now 5,595 households on the housing register in need of a home for rent with between 400 and 500 applications being added to that number each month.

“Given the national housing crisis, compounded by the cost of living crisis we have seen a significant increase in demand with an unprecedented high number of households applying each month,” said a council spokesperson.

The authority says that all applications are assessed in date order unless there is an urgent reason to escalate a case.

Despite the growing waiting list Dorset Council says that its work on homelessness has seen an improvement with local figures 15% better than the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUCH) benchmark rate, much of this down to early intervention with council staff getting involved at the early stages when someone if threatened with the loss of their home.

At the end of February the council recorded 280 households in temporary accommodation which included 79 in bed and breakfast, or hotels, of which 28 are families; 36 in hostels where they might have to share kitchen and bathroom facilities; 158 in self-contained homes and 7 in self-contained family caravan on holiday parks.

The council says its priority among those in temporary accommodation is families who are in B&B.

One of the tactics the council is using to try and bring more homes to the market is its empty homes scheme which has been running for four year and has brought 34 of what it describes as “the most complex and problematic empty homes” back into use.

“Without direct action from the council, these houses would likely still be empty.

This work is complex and time consuming, but focussing our efforts on a small number of the most complex cases is the best way to tackle this issue, create real change and have the greatest impact for residents,” said the spokesperson.

Also in the council’s armoury is Homes Dorset, which was set up in 2019 to provide housing with £4million from the former West Dorset District Council -  although the council says it now has no assets.

The council says it  has been dormant as a company since 2021 but could be resurrected: “Re-establishing the company as an option to acquire housing is being considered as part of our new Housing Strategy, agreed in December 2023 and with a detailed delivery plan currently being worked up.”

The Homes Dorset funding has been spent on the acquisition of temporary accommodation.

The funding has helped to purchase 32 properties under the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) and The Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP).  Another project to benefit is Hardy House (also called Portland Youth Hostel).

These schemes are to house rough sleepers and has delivered cost savings for the Council,  as well as housing with support for vulnerable people.

Dorset Council say that if you are likely to be homeless within the next seven days or are homeless now, you should ring its advice number on 01305 221000.