More than one million families are stuck on waiting lists for social housing in England – a quarter of whom are made to wait for more than five years, a study has found.
Figures from housing and homelessness charity Shelter showed a total of 1.15 million households were on waiting lists last year, with only 290,000 homes made available – leaving a national shortfall of more than 800,000 homes.
Almost two thirds (65%) of families were on lists for more than a year, while 27% were waiting for more than five years.
Six London authorities were among the top 10 councils with the biggest shortfall, the study found, with areas including Brighton, Blackpool and Strood, Kent, also struggling.
In Newham, east London, 25,729 households were on the waiting list last year, with only 588 social homes available. In Brighton and Hove, there were 24,392 families on lists with just 949 homes available.
This is not just confined to London but happening right across the country, from Brighton to Blackpool
The charity says the gap is caused by a lack of new-build social homes, and many existing homes being sold off through the right-to-buy scheme and not being replaced.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the fact that some survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire were still homeless a year on from the disaster had “totally shaken people’s trust in the safety net the state supposedly provides”.
“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,” she added.
“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.”
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Freddy Emmanuel, 56, has been stuck on a west London waiting list for the past 18 years. He is currently privately renting nearby.
The part-time commercial engineer said: “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.”
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government says more than 357,000 new affordable properties have been delivered since 2010.
It added that it would be investing a further £9 billion in affordable homes, including £2 billion to help councils and housing associations build properties for social rent, while also giving councils the power to borrow £1 billion to build new properties in areas with the greatest affordability pressures.