Tackling social housing waiting lists

For decades, we have failed to build enough homes. Since peaking in the 1960s at around 350,000, housebuilding rates have slowed significantly. Today, there remains a long-term, systemic undersupply of affordable housing in the UK and England in particular.

In fact, England hasn’t built more than 200,000 homes since the 1980s. Despite this, politicians from all parties continue to set themselves targets much higher than the current rate of development (175,000 in 2022/23).

In the meantime, the housing crisis has grown exponentially, with the need for all types of housing under immense pressure. At the sharp end of the housing crisis are those who require social housing, leaving local authorities with large housing waiting lists. Housing costs are pushing several councils across England to the financial brink, with some saying in the last 12 months that they are considering closing their social housing registers to new applicants.

Development of new homes is being held back by the fundamental make up of England’s housing market. Despite this, political parties are consistently promising unattainable housebuilding figures. The 2019 Conservative manifesto vowed to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s – a target it is yet to reach - and Labour has promised a similar volume of 1.5m homes over the course of the next parliamentary term.

Even with substantial changes to the planning system, building more publicly funded homes and relaxing build quality and environmental standards (which is not advisable), there is still no possibility of building homes on this scale. At the same time, the country is seeing a constant stream of homes being removed the social housing sector through the Right to Buy (RTB) scheme. The latest data shows that almost three times as many homes are being sold via RTB than are being completed through retained RTB receipts.

In this report, JLL considers the scale of the housing waiting lists issue and the potential cost of fixing the problem.

Download the report

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