Social housing waiting list ‘500,000 households bigger’ than official numbers | Strategic Network news

Social housing waiting list ‘500,000 households bigger’ than official numbers

The National Housing Federation has released new data showing that the social housing waiting list is far bigger than official figures suggest.

The findings are published in the annual People in Housing Need report, which analyses the true number of people in need of social housing in England, which has now hit 3.8m.

This equates to 1.6m households – 500,000 more than the 1.16m households recorded on official waiting lists.

Due to the severe shortage of social homes, some of these people have been on their council waiting list for almost two decades and may never be housed, the NHF say.

Already at critical levels, the housing association trade body is warning that the number of people in need of social housing is set to rise rapidly as a result of Covid-19 - with low-income earners roughly twice as likely to lose their jobs.

Worse still, the NHF say, those currently in need are likely to be forced further into poverty and debt and as the eviction ban ends, many more will become homeless.

Last year only 6,338 new social rented homes were built, a fall of 84% since 2010. New lettings from existing properties also fell by 17% in the same time period and the most expensive areas of the country saw the smallest proportion of new lettings, despite having the highest number of people in need and on waiting lists.

In the last two years the number of people in need of social housing has increased by 5% and 165,000 people, whilst the number of households has largely remained the same. This suggests new and growing families are now suffering the worse effects of the housing crisis. The report shows there are now 3.4m people living in overcrowded homes.

Previously, council housing waiting lists were the only way of measuring how many people needed social housing.

But these lists, which only record people who apply and meet strict criteria, are a way of prioritising the most vulnerable. They are not intended to be an accurate reflection of everyone in need of an affordable and secure home.

The largest number of people on the real ‘social housing waiting list’ are in private rented homes (1.5m), with many having to choose between living in poverty and getting into debt in order to keep a roof over their heads.

Others are living in overcrowded, poor quality or unsuitable homes, stuck with friends, family or ex partners because they cannot afford a home of their own, or are homeless.

Official figures show the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has risen by 88% since its low point in 2011 to 129,380.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “Today’s report shows that the sharp end of the housing crisis is getting sharper, and at a rapid rate. Under-investment in social housing has left us with virtually no affordable homes available for people on the lowest incomes.

“The real tragedy is that these are same people impacted the most by the coronavirus crisis, which had led to huge job losses for low income workers. When the government’s Job Retention Scheme and ban on evictions end, we are likely to see people in need of social housing skyrocket.

“Everyone deserves a safe, secure and affordable home and social housing provides that vital safety net for low income people including thousands of key workers who have been keeping our country going at this time.

“We are calling on the government to commit to a once-in-a-generation investment in social housing and put homes at the heart of its plans for economic and social recovery.”