Housing

'It's crisis point': Social housing waiting list will cost next government £205bn to clear

Almost 1.3 million households are waiting for a social home in England and it will cost 17 times what the Tory government is spending on affordable housing to clear queues, according to new research from real estate services firm JLL

building social housing

The Big Issue is calling on the next government to invest heavily to build more build affordable and social housing to address the growing housing crisis. Image: Malú Pérez / Pexels

It will cost a mammoth £205bn to clear the 1.3 million households on England’s social housing waiting lists, new research has found.

The analysis, from real estate services firm JLL, found the funding needed to tackle the housing crisis is 17 times the £11.5bn the current Tory government is spending on its Affordable Housing Programme.

A chronic shortage of social housing has seen the numbers of households waiting for a social home grow by 161,000 over the last five years while councils have collectively been spending £1.74bn a year to put people up in temporary accommodation.

JLL estimates that there will be a shortfall of 570,000 homes over the next five years, which could see the housing crisis deepen further. The firm has called for the Right to Buy scheme to be scrapped to protect social housing stock from further losses.

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Marcus Dixon, director of UK residential research at JLL, said: “Pressure on social housing waiting lists in England has been building for some time and we have reached crisis point. 

“Overall development has been slow in the last few years and has fallen short of targets, heaping more pressure on waiting lists. 

“As a first step to easing the pressure on waiting lists, the next government needs to scrap Right to Buy, which has seen thousands of social homes being removed every year. Additionally, political parties need to be honest about the barriers preventing large scale housebuilding and set realistic development targets.

“Without doing so, voters will be trapped in a cycle of disappointment when the government of the day fails to deliver on its promises.”

Government figures show 1.287 million households are on social waiting lists in England.

Nationally, 5.5% of households are on a housing waiting list but some regions are feeling the pressure more than others.

In London, 9.5% of all households are on a waiting list with 6.5% in the North East and North West and 6.4% in Yorkshire and the Humber region.

The pressure on housing waiting lists is particularly acute in London, where waiting lists are equivalent to 9.5% of all households. But the picture is also challenging in the North East (6.5%), North West (6.5%) and Yorkshire and The Humber (6.4%), compared to the national average (5.5%).

The current Tory government pledged to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s but has failed to hit that mark so far, managing a peak of around 235,000 homes. The party has promised to build 1.6 million homes over the next five years if elected.

Labour has set a target of building 1.5 million homes over the next five years and promised to bring back local housing targets, despite gloomy forecasts for housebuilding levels in the short-term.

If the 300,000 target is maintained, JLL estimates found a 570,000 home shortfall is on the cards between 2024 and 2028.

That’s bad news when councils in England were forced to sell off 10,000 existing homes via Right to Buy in the last year alone with a quarter of a million lost in the last decade, according to Shelter.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “With 1.3 million households stuck on social housing waiting lists, it’s absurd that we’re selling off the little social housing stock we have through schemes like Right to Buy and not replacing it. 

“Decades of failure to invest in social homes has resulted in homelessness hitting record levels as private rents keep spiralling and families on lower incomes can’t find anywhere affordable to live.”

The housing charity is calling for 90,000 social homes a year to be built over the next decade and has previously laid out how doing so could bring a £50bn boost to the economy.

But protecting social housing stock from being sold off under Right to Buy must also be part of the solution, according to Neate.

“Building 90,000 social homes a year would not only help families into a safe and secure home, but they would also pay for themselves within three years, save the taxpayer money, boost jobs and reduce the burden of poor housing on our NHS,” she added.

“With the general election only weeks away, voters need a serious commitment from all political parties to tackle the housing emergency by investing in social rent homes. We need 90,000 a year for ten years, and until this is delivered Right to Buy must be paused to prevent the loss of what few genuinely affordable homes we have left.”

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