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Housing waiting lists set to double next year in Covid-19 aftershock

Words: Huw Morris

England’s council housing lists could double next year with one in 10 households stuck in the queue for affordable homes for more than five years, according to latest research.

As a result of the pandemic, council housing waiting lists could reach as many as 2.1 million households following the winding down of Covid-19 support schemes and a subsequent rise in homelessness, according to the study by the Local Government Association (LGA), the Association of Retained Council Housing and National Federation of ALMOs.

They call for 100,000 green social homes for rent to be built each year as part of the recovery from the pandemic, as well as to deliver net-zero housing and “level-up” the nation. This figure would also achieve a third of the government’s annual housing target while improving public finances over 30 years by £24.5 billion.

The LGA is calling on chancellor Rishi Sunak to use this month’s Spending Review to further reform the right to buy by allowing councils to retain 100 per cent of receipts. Local authorities should also have the flexibility to combine right to buy receipts with other government grants and to set the size of discounts locally.

More than 100,000 fewer new homes will be built across all tenures by 2023 due to Covid-19, the research argues. For 1.6 million households, social rent would be the most appropriate form of housing, as many are not ready or choose not to buy. Households would also save £37 a week in social housing compared to private rental.

The study also shows that a family moving from a poorly insulated and fossil-fuel heated home into a modern one with heat pump could save up to £500 a year.

“There is a desperate need to build more social housing in this country, which should be a central part of the government’s ambition to level-up and build back better following the pandemic,” said LGA housing spokesperson David Renard. “Social housing gives families the security and stability of a decent home, as well as being a route to owning your own home through the right to buy.

“Now is the time to reverse the decline in council housing over the past few decades. The benefits are clear – a programme of 100,000 social homes a year would shorten council housing waiting lists, reduce homelessness and cut carbon emissions, while delivering a multi-billion long-term boost to the economy.”

Building post-pandemic prosperity is available at https://www.local.gov.uk/publications/building-post-pandemic-prosperity

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