Decade-long wait times for City’s social housing


A total of 55 households have been stuck on the City’s social housing waiting list for more than a decade, according to new figures revealed at the Court of Common Council last month.

More than 650 people are on the waiting list for the Corporation’s stock of 2,000 properties, though just 74 homes were made available in the last financial year, down from 86 in 2016-17.

The Corporation’s community and children’s services committee chair, Randall Anderson, outlined the figures to the Common Council on 21 June in response to a question on the Corporation’s housing targets from Vintry ward councillor Rehana Ameer.

She expressed concern that of the 655 applicants, 55 have been waiting more than 10 years for suitable housing – 15 of them families – while 91 have been waiting between five and 10 years, and some 231 people have been waiting between two and five years.

The Corporation has two housing estates within the Square Mile – the Golden Lane Estate and Middlesex Street Estate – and managed 10 other estates in six different boroughs including Dron House in Tower Hamlets, William Blake Estate and Avondale Square in Southwark and Windsor House in Hackney.

Mr Anderson said that while the City is committed to building more social housing to meet demand, those waiting the longest were generally considered to be low-need and some have either turned down housing offers or failed to bid on vacant properties.

“Of the 10 households registered on the waiting list for the longest time: three have never placed a bid; five have made only a small number of bids; one will only consider properties on one estate; and one has already been offered and turned down three properties,” he said.

In June, a report from homeless charity Shelter named the City of London the third worst local authority in England for social housing availability compared to households on the waiting list – behind the London boroughs of Newham and Merton.

According to Shelter, the City’s gap between supply and demand was even higher than Mr Anderson suggested, with just 26 social housing lettings available in 2016/17, compared with 853 households on the list.

However, even this figure pales in comparison to Newham, where 25,729 households were on the waiting list and only 588 social homes made available.

A spokesperson for the City Corporation was unable to explain the discrepancy between Mr Anderson’s figures and Shelter’s report, but reiterated its commitment to deliver 700 new homes on its existing social housing estates and 3,000 affordable homes on its property portfolio by 2025.

When pressed further on the waiting times, Mr Anderson said that while data from other local authorities is scarce, comparative wait times for social housing in Westminster are a year longer than the City for a studio flat and 13 years longer for a three-bedroom property.

He also said that most local authorities make use of the private rented sector, unlike the City, which uses its existing local housing stock, and some have cut their waiting lists by closing them to anybody in low need.

“A nearby borough recently removed 19,000 applicants in low need from their list, on the grounds that they would, in reality, never be housed,” he said.

“We do have target dates on the new housing we are building and we believe our housing policy is well aligned with that of the Mayor.

“We have received funding from the Mayor to assist the costs of all of our projects that are in the planning process.”

Image by Steve Cadman (Creative Commons).