Average wait for social housing almost 15 years in London; up to 47 years for Disabled people

Based on current social housing building, a Londoner will wait nearly 15 years for a home to become available. Disabled Londoners could wait 47 at current building pace.

a person using a mobility scooter laughs with two children
Photo by Amigo Mobility on Unsplash

New analysis of housing waiting list figures shows that the average wait for a social housing property in London is over 14 and a half years, and a possible three times that if you’re Disabled.

The figures, recently released by the National Housing Federation and supported by Habinteg Housing Association, show the critical need for immediate and long-term action by political parties across the country.

The analysis shows that close to 324,000 households in London are on waiting lists for social housing, but only 22,176 new social housing lettings were available last year (2022/23).

Social housing lettings refer to homes which have been let at either social rent, which is typically 50% of market rents, or Affordable Rent, which is at least 20% below market rents – making them the only affordable option for many.

Across the country, the chronic shortage of genuinely affordable social homes has left many families stuck in unaffordable, unsuitable accommodation, cut off from local support networks, far from school or job opportunities or even facing homelessness.

And these challenges increase for people looking for a new wheelchair-accessible, or adaptable home, where the average wait would be 47 years.

Habinteg Housing Association’s October 2022 freedom of information request to Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) revealed that most authorities had limited data on waiting lists and the number of accessible homes built in the region.

The research, based on freedom of Information requests to 325 local authorities, showed that there are an estimated 20,000 people on English local authority waiting lists for a fully wheelchair-accessible home. A further 104,000 people are waiting for an accessible or adaptable home. At the current rate of building, a wheelchair user joining the list today could wait up to 47 years for a new home that meets their needs.

In London, authorities reported that 5,359 people were on their waiting lists for accessible homes, which could be adapted for disabled people, and homes for wheelchair users, in 2022/23. Meanwhile, the recorded total of such homes built in the region, on average, per year, only amounts to 2200.

Disabled people are disproportionately at risk of homelessness, representing 39% of the homeless population, showing the vital need for more accessible social housing.

Nick Apetroaie, Chief Executive Officer at Habinteg Housing Association, said: “The data recently released by the National Housing Federation is truly sobering. With rents in the private sector spiralling out of reach for so many, there needs to be a viable alternative for people on lower incomes.

“Everybody deserves a home that suits their needs and at Habinteg, we’re acutely aware that disabled people are often the hardest hit of all, because there are so few accessible homes out there, their choices are even more limited than non-disabled people.

“At the last count, the English Housing Survey told us that only 9% of English homes have even the most basic accessibility features. Therefore, we’re calling on all political parties to not only put affordable housing front and centre of their manifestos, but to future proof new homes by ensuring that accessible and adaptable standards become the norm for all, and to make sure that Local Planning Authorities are making proper provision for fully wheelchair accessible homes that are so much needed.”

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