Real social housing waiting list 500k more than official figures

Recent findings from the National Housing Federation (NHF) suggest the real ‘social housing waiting list’ in England is far greater than reported on official lists.

The NHF’s ‘People in Housing Need’ report issued last week reveals there are 3.8 million people in need of social housing in England today, which equates to 1.6 million households – 500,000 more than the 1.16m households recording on official waiting lists.

Housing associations like Grand Union Housing Group are concerned that the number of people in need of social housing could rise as a result of the coronavirus crisis, particularly as low-income earners are twice as likely to lose their jobs, and those currently in need are likely to be forced further into poverty and debt as the eviction ban ends, with many more becoming homeless.

Aileen Evans, Grand Union’s Chief Executive and President of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: “We were already in a housing crisis before the pandemic hit. The NHF estimates that 340,000 homes need to be built every year to meet the ever-increasing need and the CIH believes at least 90,000 of these need to be a genuinely affordable social rent.

“Long-term investment in social housing is key to tackling the problem and providing people with safe, secure and affordable homes.

“Every housing provider has a contribution to make and we’re doing our bit to help. We’ve secured funding to build 1,900 homes in the next five years across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire, with 650 of those being delivered in the next two years.”

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the NHF, said: “The 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.

“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.”

Social rented homes are typically 50% of market rent. They are the most affordable and secure homes for people on low incomes. Last year only 6,338 new social rented homes were built, a fall of 84% since 2010.

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. The report shows that there are now 3.4m people living in overcrowded homes.

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 that the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has risen by 85% since 2010 to 128,000.

Grand Union has joined a coalition of charities, businesses, banks, and think tanks in their campaign calling on the government to put building social homes at the heart of its plans for the recovery from the coronavirus crisis. For more information on the Homes at the Heart Campaign visit: