London boroughs as diverse as Newham, Merton and Kingston are at the top of the national list of local authorities with the largest gaps between the numbers of households on their social housing waiting lists and the number of such homes that become available, according to figures compiled by Shelter.
Analysis by the housing charity found that Newham had by far the largest mismatch between demand and availability in England, with a 2017 waiting list figure of 25,729 households compared with 588 social rent lettings that became available during the 2016/17 financial year, a ratio of 44 households for every dwelling.
In second placed Merton the ratio was 35 and in Kingston it was 32, though the numbers for these two boroughs were much smaller than in Newham: Merton had 9,581 households on its waiting list for 270 homes that became available, while in Kingston the figures were 9,732 and 300.
Kingston is placed fourth in the national and London league table, just below the City of London Corporation, where the ratio was 33, but the numbers relatively very small, with 853 households on its list and just 26 lettings available in a local authority with a historically small population. Redbridge completes London’s domination of the English top five, with 26 waiting list households per available home (8,335 households, 318 homes).
One other London borough, Islington, also features in Shelter’s national top ten, coming in ninth below Brighton & Hove, Fylde and Medway local authorities. Shelter says the north London borough had 18,033 households on its list during 2017, with 884 social rent lettings becoming available, making a ration of 20. The four boroughs with the next highest ratios for the period concerned were Greenwich, Lambeth, with 20,438 on its waiting list, Ealing and Tower Hamlets, with 18,616.
Not all boroughs operate waiting lists in the same way, with some restricting eligibility for inclusion on it, and boroughs differ in their capacity to deliver social housing and the priority they give to building it. Even so, Shelter’s figures indicate how large and widespread is the mismatch between demand for such homes and their supply as the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire approaches, with many of the survivors of the blaze yet to be rehoused by Kensington & Chelsea.
London as a whole has had a comparatively high rate of replacement of council homes lost through Right to Buy compared with the rest of England, but it was still less than 50% in 2016/17. A steady loss of council housing has continued in the capital as part of a net loss of social housing overall between 2016 and 2017, with the construction of new homes by housing associations during that year unable to prevent a net loss of 1,710 social rented homes of all types.