‘Real’ social housing waiting list larger than figures suggest, report finds

Half a million more households are in need of social housing in England than official figures suggest, new data has revealed.

The NHF’s annual People in Housing Need report found that 3.8 million people in England have housing needs that would best be met by social housing, equating to 1.6 million households – 500,000 more than the 1.16 million households recorded on official council waiting lists.

This figure is only set to rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the government’s furlough scheme and evictions ban end this autumn and low-income earners face the risk of homelessness, the NHF has warned.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF, 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.”

The NHF’s People in Housing Need report outlines the number of people hit by housing problems, what issues they are facing, and what housing would be most appropriate to meet their needs based on their income and circumstances.

The analysis looks to provide a clearer picture of housing need in England than council housing waiting lists, which only record people who apply for social housing and meet strict criteria.

Overall, eight million people across England were found to be in some form of housing need, a drop since the last analysis based on 2015/16 figures. However, it found that 165,000 more people are in need of social housing, a 5% increase, as more people face issues of affordability and overcrowding.

Over 3.4 million people were found to be living in overcrowded households, up by 5% from previous figures, while 2.7 million were found to have an affordability issue, a rise of nearly 10%. In addition, almost 1.8 million single people are living in ‘concealed households’ such as adult children living at home.

The report also found that while the South of England is the area of England with the greatest level of housing need, affordability in the private rental sector is a much greater problem in the North and Midlands where household incomes are generally lower.

The NHF said the figures show the need for new social homes as only 6,338 new social homes were built last year, a fall of 84% since 2010, while 1.5 million people in need of social housing live in the private rental sector.

Henderson added: “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.”

The report’s findings back up the NHF’s Homes at the Heart campaign, which calls for a ‘once in a generation’ investment in social housing to spur England’s economic and social recovery from COVID-19.

A recent inquiry by the House of Commons’ Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee found that the government should invest an extra £10 billion a year into social housing to build 90,000 new homes each year.

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