Council housing waiting lists ‘could double as Covid support measures end’

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The Local Government Association has warned that council housing waiting lists could double by next year – a situation it said was avoided last year due to extensions to pandemic support measures that are now winding down.

The organisation, which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling for the Government to use this month’s spending review to give councils the powers and funding to build 100,000 social rent homes a year, which it says will deliver benefits to the public purse over the long term.

In a report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), the Association of Retained Council Housing and the National Federation of ALMOs, called Building Post-Pandemic Prosperity, research highlights that one in 10 households in need of housing are stuck on council waiting lists for more than five years according to Government figures released in March.

The report also says that more than 100,000 fewer new homes will be built across all tenures – social and market housing – by 2023 than would have been the case without the pandemic.

The LGA issued a similar warning in November last year. It says the extension of Covid support schemes, such as the eviction ban, helped prevent such an increase but it adds that now some support schemes are winding down there is a fresh concern.

The report says that every 100,000 new social rent homes built delivers the equivalent of £24.5 billion to the public finances over 30 years, which includes savings in housing-related benefits, tax receipts from the construction industry, and the wider impacts of getting people into higher quality and more energy efficient housing.

The LGA is also calling for the Government to reform Right to Buy and allow councils to retain 100% of receipts.

LGA spokesperson Councillor David Renard said: “We are concerned that as life returns to normal there could be an increase in homelessness cases in the coming months.

“We want to work with government on a cross-departmental long-term homelessness prevention strategy and tackle our housing shortage as we recover from the pandemic.

“Giving councils the powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year, including further reform to Right to Buy, would not only help to reduce homelessness but deliver a third of the Government’s housing target.”

Mr Renard added: “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. Social housing gives families the security and stability of a decent home, as well as being a route to owning your own home through Right to Buy.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell described the Conservatives’ record on social housing as “woeful”.

She said Labour would give local authorities powers to buy and develop land for housing to “empower communities”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We are building more social housing and taking action to reduce waiting lists, which have fallen by almost 600,000 households since 2010.

“We’ve delivered over 382,000 affordable homes for rent, including 149,400 for social rent. But we must go further, so we’re investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over the next five years – the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade.”

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