Posted 08 Jun 2018
One year on from Grenfell, millions still stuck on housing waiting lists
One year on from the tragic Grenfell fire, and many survivors are still waiting for a new home – but new analysis from Shelter reveals the situation is similarly stark right across the country.
Over one million households in need of a social home are stuck on long waiting lists, often for years on end. Yet the number of social homes becoming available is extremely low. leading to a huge gap.
Shelter’s analysis shows there are 1.15m households on waiting lists, but only 290,000 social homes were made available last year – a difference of more than 800,000 homes.
The gap is caused by a lack of new social homes being built, and the fact many existing homes are sold off through right-to-buy without the receipts being used to replace these homes, like-for-like.
Despite the capital’s acute housing shortage, only six of the local authorities with the biggest gaps are in London – showing that this problem is nationwide, having spread to places such as Brighton, Blackpool and Strood.
10 English local authorities with fewest available social homes compared to households on waiting list
Number of households on the waiting list (2017)
Number of social rent lettings available (2016/17)
Gap of homes
Number of households to a single home
City of London (London)
Kingston upon Thames (London)
Brighton and Hove (South East)
Fylde (North West)
Medway (South East)
Dacorum (East of England)
For those stuck on long lists, almost two-thirds (65%) are made to wait on lists for over a year. And a staggering 27% must wait more than five years.
Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said: “The fact that one year on from Grenfell, some survivors are still homeless has totally shaken people’s trust in the safety net the state supposedly provides. And this is despite them being ‘fast-tracked’ outside the usual waiting list system, too.
“Imagine then, how frustrating life must be for the millions of people elsewhere in the country who have been stuck on waiting lists, often for years on end. This is not just confined to London but happening right across the country, from Brighton to Blackpool. Families are unable to get settled and unable to get on with their lives.
“The Grenfell tragedy must mark a turning point in our nation’s approach to social housing and its tenants – we clearly need a bold new plan for social housing so families are not condemned to waiting lists but given safe, secure and affordable housing as quickly as possible.”
Freddy Emmanuel, 56, is a part-time commercial engineer. He has been stuck on a west London waiting list for the past 18 years. He is currently privately renting nearby.
“I grew up here, went to school here, worked here. I have been on the waiting list for a solid 18 years. I’ve been homeless, in private renting or sofa surfing all that time.
“Not having a settled place makes it hard to do anything, even getting letters delivered so you can get accepted for doctors is hard. I’m in my mid-50s and at this age I should be looking after my family and relaxing in the job that I’ve been doing for a long time but I can’t do any of that until I get my own place.
“I feel that I should be helped by the council. My family has been in this borough for a long time and for me to stick in the area would be good for the community. I know a lot of people here and work with loads of charities. This is my neighbourhood.”
Notes to editors
For more case studies including photos, or to arrange an interview with a Shelter spokesperson, please contact Shelter’s press office: email email@example.com or call 02075052162 or 07850901142 (out of hours).
Other data tables available: (1) a ranking of England regions by fewest available social homes for each household in need, (2) 10 English local authorities with the fewest available social homes for each household in need excluding London, (3) 10 London local authorities with fewest available social homes for each household in need, and (4) 10 English local authorities with most available social homes for each household in need.
Changes to waiting lists: The Localism Act 2011 gave local authorities much greater freedom to decide who should qualify to go on the waiting list for social housing in their area. Under this act, a number of local authorities – especially in London – changed their criteria and shortened their lists, disqualifying some who had been waiting.